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Chaordia - A Novel of Transformation Ch. 16

Because of climate change a man wants to transform an old farm into a new colony in Vermont

When we got home the next day, it was late Tuesday afternoon, and both Alice and I were eager to tell Gabe and Tim what was happening and to call Elizabeth. We had already missed two days of school. It didn’t matter to me, but I was surprised that Alice didn’t seem to care either.

For most of the trip, I was quiet, but listened to Glenn and my dad talking about all the possibilities and how to get started transforming the land into the different zones, connecting to the internet, making sure all the shelters faced south, getting the building supplies, solar panels, batteries, what kind of trees to plant. My dad tried convincing Glenn that being an independent colony and refusing to pay property taxes to the town was a mistake because the town maintained the roads we would be using, how they plowed them in winter. They paid for the local school and the library. It helped the local economy and had nothing to do with the federal government and the military. Until we produce our own biofuel, we had to buy gas and there will be things we need.

"You can be independent by growing most of your own food and producing your own energy," my dad said. "You can live alongside the country and be as separate as you can, but you don’t need to isolate yourself completely. It's not all bad."

"Let me think about it," Glenn said, nodding. "Maybe you’re right."

Grace didn’t say much except, "You’ll figure it out. You’re going in the right direction. Part of learning is unlearning. It's a transition and will take time."

I had never thought about unlearning, but then she said something that made us all stop and think. "What will happen when White Elk dies? Who will be made Chief?"

I had no idea how a new chief was selected. I knew the sacred pipe had been passed to White Elk when he stopped drinking and wondered what would happen if Grey Fox became chief. While we were driving home, I thought about the interview with Jeremy and wondered what kind of a story he would write. That was the first time I had ever been interviewed and didn’t know what Glenn and Grace had said, so, at first, I was careful, but I found out by the questions he asked Alice and me that he knew the whole story.

“What are your thoughts about sharing this land with Native Americans?” he asked. “Are you going to be part of all of this?”

I answered I didn’t know if I was going to be part of Glenn’s project, but I liked the idea of learning how to live more like Native Americans and that climate change was going to affect everyone, even if the way the Indians lived had nothing to do with the amount of carbon that was causing global warming. Alice said she thought she wanted to live there one day, but was planning on college, and then she said something that startled me. "I’m not sure how relevant a college education is going to be in the future. I'd probably learn more on the farm than in college."

It was late afternoon when Glenn dropped us off and told us he was planning a meeting at his mother’s apartment in New York on Friday night and was inviting some of his friends from Occupy Wall Street to hear his plans. He wanted us to come and said we could bring friends if we wanted to. Grace said she was inviting a few professors from the University and a graduate student she thought we would like. He also said he was going back to the farm the following week and wanted us to come. My dad said he wanted to go and do some more detailed measuring, but I knew it was because of Morning Star.

The next night, we were at Charley's having pizza and Gabe and Tim kept asking questions when we told them more about what was happening, how we sat in a wigwam and smoked a sacred pipe and how Glenn wants to share the land with them, how we’re going to learn their old ways and they’re going to learn new ways and how beautiful it is there. "It’s really special," Alice said.

"Maybe it will be like Atlantis," Gabe said. "Maybe we’ll be able to share everything and people won’t be greedy because we all have what we need."

"Did you say we?" I asked. "Would you want to live there?"

"Wow! I did say we, didn’t I?" Gabe said.

"I definitely want to know more," Tim said. "Ever since I read, Children of the Dream and how those kids who had memories of Atlantis sang that song, ‘A New Tomorrow’ that Jesse taught them, I wondered, what can I do with music?"

"Really, wow, I’m glad you liked those books as much as Alice and me," I said. "I think it’s really cool that you want to know more about Glenn’s plans."

"It’s really weird," Gabe said. "If the Bendula are really here, they have to be stopped."

"Listen to this," Alice said, glancing at me, then at Tim and Gabe sitting across from us.

Before she could say anything, Jean brought us the pizzas we had ordered and then turned to Alice and again asked,"Where did you get that necklace...it’s so cool? Where can I get one like that?"

"An Indian woman named Morning Star gave it to me. I’ll tell you about it when you’re not so busy."

"I like your hair like that, the pigtails," Jean said.

"Thanks." Alice touched one of her pigtails and smiled. "This is how Morning Star wears her hair."

When Jean left, Alice continued, "Listen to this. Glenn knows the Bendula are watching him, and he doesn’t care. He’s going to do what he wants and says nobody can stop him."

"Does he know about the Bendula?" Gabe asked.

"He doesn’t know what we know from those books," I said. "We told him the FBI, and the military are part of the Bendula like in Atlantis, but he and my dad both think we’re taking these books way too far, but his mom, she’s a classics professor, she knew about Atlantis. She’s the one who wants to call the farm, 'Chaordia.' You’ll meet her if you go to the meeting at her place on Friday."

Glenn and Tammy picked us up in his old VW bus and drove through Manhattan to the apartment. Tim and Gabe sat in the rear seats and Glenn was glad they wanted to come. Alice sat next to mTammy and me I didn’t know where to look first. I couldn’t believe the traffic, the noise of horns and sirens, gaudy, blinking neon signs, cabs, buses, skyscrapers, department stores, so many different restaurants, so many coffee shops, so much construction everywhere, crowds rushing on the sidewalks, crossing the streets, some dressed in fancy clothes, others in jeans, or baggy pants. It looked like there were people from every country in the world: Blacks, Asian, Muslim, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish. Posters and signs were in different languages. Seeing homeless people sitting in doorways or pushing shopping carts filled with soda cans and bottles made me wonder where they slept at night. While we were driving through the noisy traffic, I couldn’t stop thinking how quiet it was at the farm and how the Indians lived.

Grace’s apartment was on the top floor of what seemed like a fancy apartment house on the Upper West Side. It had a big blue awning over the front door with the name Arcadia Towers on it. Glenn told us she could afford it because she has had the same apartment since 1948 and rent control kept the rent low. She refused to sell her apartment to the owner of the building who wants to make it a condominium because she doesn’t want to move, even though he offered her a lot of money. She loves the place, has all of her possessions there and the thought of living in a place that wasn’t called "Arcadia" was out of the question.

"Wait until you see her place," Glenn said to my dad, "It’s furnished in early clutter."

My dad laughed.

I asked Alice if she knew what Arcadia was.

Glenn turned when he overheard my question. "Ask my mom about Arcadia and she’ll stop everything and give you a lecture. Watch out what you ask her?"

Grace’s apartment was filled with books, paintings, drawings, photographs. The walls in all of the rooms were covered. Some were photos of her when she was younger, and she was standing next to different people, posing for the camera. In a few pictures she was wearing the same wide brimmed Indiana Jones hat she wore at the farm. In one photograph, she was holding a baby standing next to a tall man with a beard. She looked so young with long blonde hair. I was sure that must have been Glenn's father and the baby was Glenn when they lived in Ireland.

Collections of various things were everywhere. Pottery, artifacts, small statues, piles of stones that must have come from some archeology expedition. A huge collection of sea shells covered a long shelf and while we were waiting for others to come, Alice, Tim and I looked at them, amazed at the variety of shapes and sizes and the intricate designs of the shells.

"All of these shells came from the ocean," Alice said. "It’s hard to comprehend how all of these shells were created. They're so beautiful. It's awesome."

I had seen the invitation and wondered what people would think when they read: "You are invited to hear about Chaordia Farm--where chaos and order meet to create a brave new world." It was such a strange word, and though I knew what she meant by the idea of something new growing out of a collapsing world, I was curious how others would think about what Glenn was planning.

At least twenty or thirty people showed up. I was amazed at the variety of ages, races and clothing. Some dressed like Glenn in jeans and flannel shirts and had long hair, some in slacks and sports jackets or turtleneck sweaters, some with T-shirts with all kinds of slogans or pictures of musicians, a lot had to do with the Occupy movement, some women were dressed in long dresses, some in short skirts, yoga pants, or faded jeans. Some looked like they just came from the gym, others like they came from working in an office or shop. A few men had pot bellies, but most looked in good shape. One of the black men was really tall and lanky and looked like he was a basketball player; another black man had horn rimmed glasses with bushy hair and wore a black suit with a vest. I wondered if he was a writer or worked on Wall Street.

Two older men and a woman with long white hair were in a corner talking to Grace. One held a pipe but not smoking it, the other had horn-rimmed glasses propped on his forehead and was tugging his beard. I assumed they were professors.

Grace had arranged the chairs in a circle, but many people had to sit on the floor or stood. Glenn sat next to his mother in a rocking chair, but leaned forward when he started speaking. My dad sat next to Glenn and held a long, rolled up paper that I had seen him working on.

Glenn told everyone about his grandfather’s farm, how he inherited it over fifteen years ago and how his grandfather’s will said the farm must never be sold and that one day he hoped I would know what to do with it and now I do.

"I paid the taxes and went there for the first time in a long time over two years ago on my way to visit a friend in Maine. The farm was falling apart and I had no idea what to do with it. It was sad to see it abandoned like that,” he said, glancing at Grace. "A few years ago I thought about selling but couldn’t go against my grandfather’s wishes."

"I grew up on the farm," Grace interrupted, "then lived there with Glenn when I came home from Ireland. I left to teach at NYU and only went back for a week in August, but then I started traveling and doing research most summers. My father always said this farm was special and that’s why he didn’t want to sell it and have it become a housing development or strip mall and left it to Glenn, but just before he died he told me something that Glenn just recently learned."

"I learned that I was part Mohegan Indian," Glenn interrupted. "I just found that out a few weeks ago. I still can’t believe it. My mom knew but never said anything to me about my grandfather’s dream. Now I understand why she's giving me my inheritance to do this project rather than after she dies. She wants to see my grandfather’s dream become a reality and so do I."

"Come on, what’s Chaordia?" a tall, skinny man shouted. "What was his dream?"

Glenn glanced at his mom, then at Eric. He looked at Alice and me sitting on the floor in front of him. "I’m turning my farm into an independent colony where we can live alongside of the society but not in it like a separate country. I want to secede from the United States."

You should have seen the reaction. People's mouths hung open. Some sat up in their chairs. Someone shouted, "Wow!" Another person gasped, "That's wild!" Another, "Are you serious?"

"We will only pay the local property tax but no federal taxes because there won’t be any income. We won’t need money because we will share everything or barter."

"What makes you think it will work," a man with shaggy dark hair and beard said. "I’ve been on communes all over the country, but most of them are messed up like you wouldn’t believe. They last a few years then fall apart."

"The Farm in Tennessee is still going strong after fifty years," said a woman with long graying hair. "There are others that have been around for a long time. They don’t all fall apart."

"Why will your place be any different than all of those who don’t make it," said a young woman with short black hair and granny glasses, sitting behind us.

"I think my vision will work because of something amazing that happened. Something I never would have imagined."

I knew what Glenn was going to say, and it both excited me and also made me tremble. I reached for Alice’s hand and squeezed it and she squeezed mine. Tim and Gabe sat next to us with their eyes focused on Glenn.

"We’ll be sharing the land with people from the Abeneki Nation," Glenn said. "They’ve been living there for over eight years and asked what we were doing when they saw us. They were friendly but made it clear this had been their land for hundreds of years and now they have taken it back. They have a treaty from 1790 that proves it was their land before my grandfather and others before him stole it from them."

"What do you mean you’re sharing the land with the Indians," asked another woman wearing an Occupy Wall Street T-shirt. "Why would they do that if they think it’s their land? That doesn’t make sense."

"We met with them," Glenn said. "It was strange and tense, but we all smoked their sacred pipe and their old chief, White Elk told us his vision of how dangerous our times are because the climate is changing and the only way to survive is to learn from each other and become whole."

"Really, he said that," the woman behind us said. "That’s so unbelievable."

"I met with White Elk, too," Grace said. "And I told him why Glenn’s vision was so important and he understood, but some of the other Indians didn’t trust us. It got pretty tense."

I saw how everyone was listening, their eyes focused on Grace. The room was silent.

"White Elk’s vision was accepted but only for a short time. This still has to be worked out. Another issue is he is old and not well. We do not know who will be the next Chief when he dies."

"Are you looking for people to join you?" the woman behind us asked.

"Yes," Glenn answered then turned to my dad. "By the way, this is Eric, an architect and an expert on alternative energy and permaculture. He’s been on the farm and knows what’s going on. He’s made some preliminary plans, and I want him to share with you what he thinks should happen."

Before my dad spoke, Grace interrupted, "We are calling it Chaordia."

"Right, I saw that word on the invitation," a tall woman on the other side of the room said. "I never heard that word before."

Alice surprised me by speaking up, "It’s a really special place. Alex and I have been there and what Glenn and his mom want to make happen there with the Indians is important, really! It will be amazing."

My dad unrolled the paper he was holding and Glenn held one end and my dad talked about permaculture and the various zones, how it all works in harmony with nature. He told how the shelters would be modeled after wigwams, but also after Cob houses made from mud, clay and straw, like adobe houses, but they would have earth covered roofs with plants growing and built to withstand big wind storms, hotter temperatures and colder winters. They’d all be off the grid, use composting toilets instead of regular plumbing. My dad always used the word shelter instead of house and said how each shelter would have its own garden and be like small homesteads. People would be responsible for maintaining their own shelters but would also work in the big common gardens and orchards and with the different animals. He told about the Commons Building modeled after the Abeneki Long House but built like the Cob Houses. Everyone would be involved in some aspect, sharing the work. We would manage the woods and the water on the land. We would produce our own bio-fuel. He ended saying how people, plants, and livestock would all live organically and how everything functions to benefit the whole.

"What about money?" a tall man with short blond hair and a goatee asked.

"We won’t really need money there," Glenn said. "Or maybe we will make our own currency to be used with us and the Indians. A kind of barter. Those are things we will work out."

"Interesting," the blond haired man said, nodding. "I love the idea of bartering and not needing money."

I noticed Grace’s professor friends listening and nodding, and I wondered what they were thinking.

After the meeting, everyone mingled and stood in little groups talking. A group surrounded Glenn, another talked to Grace, two men and a woman asked my dad about his plans and looked at his drawings more closely. Alice turned around and talked to the dark haired woman behind us with granny glasses, while I listened.

"Hi, I'm Catherine."

She told us she was a nurse but was studying to become an acupuncturist.

"Having a healer there would be important," she said. "I'd love to become part of Glenn's colony. Western medicine is flawed and I love acupuncture. It's really cool."

"Right, that would be important," Alice said. "By the way, there’s a medicine man we met there named Tall Tree. I bet you could learn a lot from him."

"Wow. Really, that would be great. Maybe when I finish my training, I'll check it out. Well, nice meeting you," she said, then went over to stand next to a man talking to another woman.

Glenn held up clipboard and asked people who were interested to leave email addresses and he would be in touch with messages that describe progress and will explain the process for joining. Also, there would be other planning meetings. I was amazed how many people wanted to know more and wondered what the process would be for joining.

While everyone was talking in small groups, nibbling on cheese and crackers and drinking wine or apple cider, a tall man with dreadlocks and needing a shave came over to us. Next to him was a woman wearing a brown checkered cap like a cab driver would wear, a flowery skirt and cowboy boots. She held a small boy who I guess was two or three.

"I’m Dan and this is Liz and Atticus," he said. "Are you kids going to be part of this colony?"

"I hope so," Alice said. "I have some big decisions to make because I was planning on going to college next year, but now I don’t know. I really love it there."

"So, you met the Indians," Liz asked. She put Atticus down and held his hand.

"Yes. In fact, this necklace was given to me by Morning Star. She’s White Elk’s granddaughter. He’s the Chief."

"Really," Liz said, moving closer to look at it. "That’s so cool. You’re lucky."

Dan’s blue eyes stared at the necklace as if studying how it was made, then he faced me. "I’m a carpenter. I would love to be part of this project. I’m sick of building houses for rich people...big, stupid houses."

"We’re going to need carpenters," I said, realizing I was including myself in Glenn’s vision. "Eric is my dad. That’s why Alice and I went to the farm."

"Wow," Dan said. "I love his ideas...really intelligent and creative."

"I do too," Liz said, holding Atticus.

"I love being a carpenter, but need to do something different than what I’m doing. It’s insane, people building huge houses and the ones I’m working on don’t pay any attention to what’s happening in the world or which way they're facing. They seem oblivious. I want something different for Atticus."

"Both of us do," Liz said. "What Glenn is talking about is like a dream come true. This is all we’ve been talking about. We want to get out of the rat race."

"You would love it there," Alice said. "It’s a mess now because no one has been there for a long time, but you should see how the Indians we met live."

"That’s why my dad wants to model some of the houses on the wigwams," I said.

"I heard what he said about green roofs with plants growing," Dan said. "I get it. Small houses, off the grid, simple, but strong, taking the ideas from the Indians and adapting to climate change. That’s the way to go. I’m going to read up on Cob houses."

I noticed Dan’s intense blue eyes, his wild dreadlocks, a shaggy thin beard, his broad shoulders. Liz turned to Atticus. "I want you to meet Alice and Alex."

"Hi Atticus, I’m Alice," she said. "How old are you?"

Atticus looked at Liz, then back at Alice and me, "I’m four," he said, holding up four fingers and smiling, proudly.

"Wow, four," I said.

Tim and Gabe had been talking to some other people, then came over to us and started listening.

"We’re going to start coming to the meetings," Dan said. "And I’d love to go up and see the place."

"Well, maybe you can come up with us when we go back there next week," Alice said. "You can follow us."

"We might do the same," Tim said. "I have camping stuff and I’ll ask Glenn if we can go next time."

Later, Glenn was excited while we drove back home and said ten people signed up to get messages about the project and several said they would come to the next meeting. My dad said several people told him they really liked his plans and had never heard of permaculture before or Cob houses. One guy said he grew up on a farm in Idaho that grew only corn and soybeans on over a hundred acres and that it all went to feed livestock. He said all of the farms where he lived did the same. My dad said that was mono-culture, the opposite of permaculture and that seventy percent of the food grown in this country was feeding animals and making ethanol. My dad then said something that startled me. "Seventy five million animals are killed each day for food in this country. Who knows how many around the world?"

"Wow! I didn’t know that," Alice said. "Now I know why I’m a vegetarian."

Tim said, "Are you serious—seventy-five million?"

I didn’t say anything, but thought about how much I like hamburgers and bacon.

When Glenn dropped us off, he asked Tim and Gabe if they wanted to come with us on Saturday, and then told us about a young couple he talked to who were going to follow us up there.

"Was it Dan and Liz?" I asked.

"Did you meet them?" Glenn asked.

"Yes, I answered. "Dad, he’s a carpenter and really liked your ideas about the houses."

"I saw you talking to him. He had dreadlocks and they have a kid."

"Right, Atticus. I like that name. I remember reading To Kill a Mocking bird and he was one of the main characters."

Before Tim and Gabe drove away, they said they’d meet at my house on Saturday and follow Glenn. We could ride with them if we wanted.

It was exciting to think that we would all be going to the farm again on Saturday and that people at the meeting seemed really interested in Glenn’s vision, and I liked that Dan and Liz wanted to see the place.

After we dropped off Alice, Glenn drove us to our house. When my dad and I walked in, there was an envelope on the floor that had been slipped through the mail slot. My dad opened it and read it, then handed it to me. "It’s for you. It's from someone named Elizabeth."

I was surprised to get a typed note from Elizabeth and was even more shocked when I read, "I have something important to tell you about Atlantis and the Bendula. Come as soon as you can, Elizabeth."

I looked up at my dad. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to, because I could tell he was concerned when he read the words Atlantis and Bendula over my shoulder.

"I have to call Alice," I said and ran up the spiral staircase to my room but turned and looked down at him standing by the front door, looking up at me. I didn’t know what to say. I knew he thought something strange was going on because of how Alice and I kept talking about Atlantis and the Bendula. I wondered if what Elizabeth needed to tell us had anything to do with the FBI watching Glenn or what it was. At that moment all I wanted to do was call Alice. Then I would go back downstairs and talk to my dad.

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