Soul Scene: The Rise and Fall of the Minneapolis New Age



It’s no secret anymore. These days, it’s easy to sense that many music festivals have a little extra political kick to them. They’re like the old festivals, but with siracha sauce. After all, Gen X has moved out of the scene now, for the most part. Either they’re helping organize the festival, or they’re at home tending to their three kids and trying to program the Hulu. That’s okay. It’s the Millennials turn to take the reins.

And boy. It shows. In my seven years of music festival experience (mostly as a musician) I can hardly state the changes in the vibes from those glory days of 2010-13; when the Minneapolis scene was blowing up, Matisyahu was still the coolest Jew around, Nahko was playing shows with small time guys like us (Aitas, check us out! shameless plug) and no one had spent any reasonable amount of time thinking about Donald Trump. We were convinced that our nation was broken; that was already apparent in the Obama years. But we had no idea what kind of monster was coming down the pike.

Well. Some of us did.

Some of us saw the changes taking place, culturally, even before the advent of Trump. Because even back then, many festivals had already adopted a distinct philosophy. In fact, some of them had gone one step further, and adopted a kind of distinct spirituality. It wasn’t a new philosophy, but it was new to the Minnesota scene, in the form that it was taking. Out west, it was already all the rage, and had been for some time. We were just getting woke in Minneapolis. But we were really woke.

It was an unlikely place for the Soul to make its comeback: drug fueled rage parties with sick bass drops and groovy guitar solos. But why not?”


We did realize that our festivals were quickly becoming worship concerts. But that was why we were coming. We wanted to worship. And at that time in history, we were going to worship how we wanted to. No one wanted to stop and discuss why, at least in a serious way. We were on a bliss cloud, and to admit that as a generation we were filling the void left from our departure from our childhood experiences with organized religion is not exactly the kind of bliss material we were looking for. But there was a reason why musicians like Nahko, Trevor Hall, Tubby Love, bands like Wookie Foot, and so many other overtly spiritual artists were rising to the top of the crème: they were voicing- and clearly- the need for a return to the Soul.

It was an unlikely place for the Soul to make its comeback: drug-fueled rage parties with sick bass drops and groovy guitar solos. But why not? There is something novel, something so peculiar and still archetypal, about Logos making its return from the echelons of subculture music festivals. It had worked with the free love and anti war movement in the sixties and seventies, to some degree. And everyone knew that this new spiritual music festival would be rife with the same problems that older collective expansion of consciousness brought with it. We just didn’t care.

Because this time, were ready for it. We had history on our side. This wasn’t the first rodeo. Our grandparents and parents had prepared us for this task. And unlike them, we weren’t going to make it ugly. It wasn’t about right or wrong, it was about finding the Self. For the time being, we were keeping politics out. Politics represented the system. It represented the mainstream. And we were the freaks; the outsiders; the castoffs. That world was maya, it was an illusion. It had no relation to the culture we were creating.

But there was of course an element of right or wrong. We just didn’t want to define that yet. See, we didn’t know it, but we were playing with fire. This new spirituality we were adopting had already been making its way through the ranks of underbelly society for a hundred years.


We had unwittingly invited the New Age belief system into our lives. And the New Age has always been, and is, lubricious. Intellectually and politically, the New Age has taken a slippery manifestation. As a spirituality, it never existed as an entity of its own. It has always been a response to traditional Western hierarchy. It has always been a challenge, to some degree, of the Christian-Judeo notion that God is separate from man in a way that limits man’s natural ability; he is bound by crushing mortality and is at the mercy of his flesh throughout his life. He does not often possess supernatural ability. Miracles are reserved for prophets. The New Age directly challenges that idea through a myriad of spiritual practices, not all of them being related or even interchangeable. Alchemy, Buddhism, and Taoism serve as inspirations. Even Christianity, but Judaism to a lesser extent.

The brand of New Age thinking that hit Minnesota? I’m not sure. But I know what Minnesota did to it. We put a Minnesota spin on it. Of course, like those that lived in Oregon and Washington, and Northern California, environmentalism took primary position. (When you live in a city that is surrounded by wilderness, that makes sense). At the heart of the movement was a feeling that we were all connected through Gaia. The Earth was our mother. Even if we weren’t concerned with activism, or nature at all, we were culminating a culture without even realizing it. And it’s not rocket science. Minneapolis, like the west coast, had a subculture generation that had created an entire culture based on the two things it was subconsciously starving for:

Nature, and God.

And the interface of Nature and God we have Soul. We had built a Soul movement.


The New Age has always suffered from Marxism. It could be argued that much of its beginnings were based on Hegelian and Marxist ideas, made popular by turn of the century black magicians like Aleister Crowley. It was a not much more than a slap in the face of the middle class Christian establishment, although it was spawned from upper-middle class European romanticism. A mélange of pseudo spiritualism, alchemy, and mythology interpretation. While its early forms were being adopted by fascist extremists like the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, being that it drew from Hegelian ideology, a man named Carl Jung made it what we really know it to be today.

Logos had chosen, yet again, a very unlikely source for its reentry into the world. For a long time, art had carried Soul forward, for the church was stale in America. Nothing was reviving it. Jung changed this. In ways many Christians will never understand, especially Evangelicals, Jung was partly responsible for the resurgence of the church in America in the sixties. The counter culture, like in Minneapolis in the late twenty-oughts, had created an ideological bedrock for spirituality to flourish. And the churches, back then, knew how to be cool.

Unfortunately for Christianity in the twenty-oughts, they did not seem to grasp that Logos was not only reentering the pop culture, but it was fostered by a growing sense of Eros. The conditions across American subculture were absolutely charged for a spiritual take over.

I would have loved to see the Christian church take their shot. But they didn’t. Instead, many organizations and segments of our culture stepped forward that many of us were rallying against. The state. The corporate elite. The mainstream media. They were ready and already poised to pounce.

What we got out of the subculture boom, of which our Soul renaissance in Minnesota was an integral part, was a nightmarish convergence of state, technology, and rebellion (or counterculture) that is so Hegelian in its scope it can hardly be understated. The monster that would bring us headlong into the election of Trump had found its breeding ground.


I don’t think that was the intention from the get-go. In the beginning, it was just an opportunity that was seized. Artists, politicians, and businessmen all took their shots, whether consciously or subconsciously. Some of us wanted to bring the Soul movement into the mainstream. Others wanted to bring the mainstream into the Soul movement.

The rest is fresh in our minds. Make of the new mess what you will. Alt right. Alt left. Alt Soul. Like all times in history that Logos attempts to make its cultural reentry, we stamp it out somehow, and when we do it’s under the jackboots of statist principles that we do it. I’m not going to say that the short lived spiritual movement was anything tremendous culturally; it produced very little shockwaves into popular culture. We thought it was going to rupture. I could feel it.

Still. It would be unfair to say that we did not create the conditions for a true cultural renaissance. Artists are the first to gauge the spiritual barometers of our times. And when they feel the waters are right, they will again take us back to the place where Logos and Eros meet. If we wish to make it stay, however, we will need to admit some very troubling things. Things that look far more like the Judeo Christian mindset. To the capitalist scum mindset. For we will have to admit that human suffering is inevitable. That our bubbles of bliss will always popped by the knives of tyrants if we do not strengthen ourselves. To acknowledge that cultural momentum is fragile, and it must be kept like an egg from a brutal world, guarded by angry mothers and warrior fathers.





Two Hunters (A Preview)

twoThe cold cannot be an enemy. That he had found early on. You couldn’t turn your back on it. In the city it was not more than mere annoyance, and on certain days if the happenings aligned just right it was almost totally inconsequential. But out there, in the big woods, it was God and it was omnipotent. One could only kneel in adoration and in terror of it. It hung with you in your dreams and it kept you warm somehow when it was too frigid to bear and the wind would whip your face numb and leave you blinded in love, battered into a grin. You had to worship it with absolute faith or it would alleviate you of your doubt and you would be washed to the bone by it. Scrubbed to the blueprints, by those biting northwesters.

If you dropped a glove, it could mean the end of your fingers. If you soiled a boot and had nothing to replace it with it, it was almost certain you would lose your toes. He thought often of wandering the aborted wastelands of the Dakotas and seeing them go by, moving west, tottering on side by side: the stubs, his mother had called them, men and women and child alike eking through gray mist and veils of freezing rain, some with only one foot, some with no fingers, others missing legs from the knees down and some with arms wholly removed. He saw them bundled like inhuman materials, some without limbs at all carried out front of another, strapped upon a breast like great infants or garish babushkas, peering from the layers folded about them with pale and pinched faces, accusatory glances; nightmares of fog and slantwise snow and long devouring plains and cunning bitter winds.

Don’t stare now, his mother had told him. You just don’t stare at em. You remember that it could be you. Any wrong move and that could be you.

It wasn’t an issuance of compassion. It was a warning.

Are you getting cold? He asked her.

Morgan shook her head. She was heaving the stiff cadaver through a frozen slough. The ice cracked and choked beneath their feet and around them they could hear moving water.

I don’t like the sound of those streams, he said.

Be careful, she said. Be real careful.

He glanced at her.

I’ll do my best.

You go in, I can’t pull you out.

Aren’t you ever scared, out here, by yourself?

She shrugged. Yeah. Just of people, I guess.

But not of the woods?

What’s there to be scared of?

He shrugged. All kinds of stuff can kill you out here, especially this time of year.

Just cause something can kill you doesn’t mean you have to be scared of it.

I spose. But people are a good thing to be scared of.

Especially when you’re a little girl.

Especially then.

After a while she dropped the rope and turned to the man. Her face seemed ten years older.

Can I ask you something? She said. There’s people out here hunting people like me. Cause we’re worth money? Is that why?

Caradoc nodded slowly. That’s right, he said.


It’s. It’s uh. It’s because you weren’t born like the rest of us. It’s hard to explain, but most women can’t give birth the way people used to anymore. Because of what happened a long time ago. Doctors started doing things differently when babies were being born, they were giving them all chemicals and hormones and splicing genes, that stopped them from ever giving birth. In order to have kids, they have to get these shots now. And then they get pregnant. But you. You just need a man-

A husband.

He blinked. Yeah, he said. A husband. And you can just have a kid.

That’s how people used to do it?


Why’d they stop?

He sighed. I don’t know, Bloom. There was too many people, I guess.

Are you gonna tie me up?

I told you, I’m not tying anyone up, and I don’t plan on moving back to the city.

Why? You didn’t like it there?

No, I didn’t. Things are bad there right now. I used to love it there. But then we became poor, and it’s not a good place to live if you’re poor. Out here, you can forget about rich or poor or any of that stuff. There isn’t any use for those ideas… You’re either alive or you’re dead. Those are really the only the only things you gotta worry about, right?

Yeah. And the weather.

He smiled. Yeah, and the weather.

But how come they want me? How come I’m worth money, just cause I can have babies without shots? She picked up the rope, absently, and resumed her haul.

You know, he said. You shouldn’t get sweaty like that. If the temperature drops too fast you’ll freeze up.

I know. If it starts to drop I’m stripping some layers. Cooling off. You gonna answer my question?

He shrugged. I don’t know. It’s cause they can use your organs and your hormones and stuff for experiments. For new drugs. For commercial use. You’re not considered a human, anymore.

I’m not?

In the city they wouldn’t even consider you a human. You have to prove your citizenship… you have to earn your place there. You convince the government that you are willing to put the needs of the world community over your own when you are old enough to make your case. Until then, you legally have no rights unless granted to you by your community.

What’s that?

What’s what?

A community?

He shook his head. You know what, Bloom? This is a lot to think about right now. You’ve got too many questions. Hey, I’ve got one for you. Who taught you to read and write and stuff, anyway?

Her head hung, there was an impish shame about her. I can’t read, she said.

You can’t read?

I can read a book that Grandpa has, by the pictures. It’s called, Goodnight Moon.

So you just read the pictures? What the hell does that mean?

I read the pictures, she said. I know what the words say because I know what words go with the pictures. Grandpa’s read it to me so many times.

He smiled. So you have it memorized.

I guess.

Will you tell me it?

I can do that. Right now?

Please, he said.


That was the way they went for a long time. Chatting about aimless things. Meandering and buoyant topics that were like the reflections of stars on the dark of a lake. Then it was close to nightfall and they still had not reached her grandfather’s cabin, so they settled down into the spruce and he cut away some thin boughs and made a very makeshift shelter against the wind. Night fell not long after they had lit their fire. Tossing in innumerable armloads of dry twigs and birch bark, the only thing they could get to burn.

It was a tiny fire and they huddled about it and warmed their hands and feet.

It’s not far now, she said. We’re close.

That’s good, he said. He looked out across the flames and the bowl of the valley, black deviating forms of timber, the cerulean lunar glow on snowdrifts, the gaunt trunks of birch laying across the way illuminated like bones in a temple of relics. A late world of darkness and antishape and the suspension of certainty.


He woke to the sound of men speaking. When he blinked himself to sight the girl was gone and the fire was out. Embers and all snuffed and covered. The girl was gone. He swung his arms about, feeling for her. She was nowhere. All about the night was soft, opaque. He listened. The voices were close. Somewhere to his right. He tried to quit his shivering.

Someone was saying, I can smell the damn fire smoke.

Me too.

You keep looking for tracks.

I bet they’re right over there.

Well look.

A light swept across the forest. Flashed before him for a moment, seeped through the wall of spruce boughs behind him. Then it was jerked away.

You saw that, right? Said the voice.

Yeah I did.

He watched. A waxy amoebic structure configurated before him. A man. And he realized it was nearly on top of the deer.

The light flicked on again. There he was, dressed in expensive looking gear. A new parka. A lime-green facemask.

He was not a wanderer. He was from the city.

It’s a fucking deer, the man said. As if startled by it, he swung the beam into the structure. Blinded, Caradoc lay shielding his eyes.

Jesus Christ, who the fuck are you? The man cried.

Someone behind him and to his side flicked on a light of their own and laid the beam across the shelter. Caradoc fumbled for his knife.

I asked you a goddamn question, the man snarled.

I’m just a wanderer, Caradoc said quickly. A wanderer, from the city. His hand scoured the cold earth but it was gone, it was somewhere his hand was not.

You sure about that? We found an Old Birth back there, about a mile. You sure you ain’t related to him? The man grinned horribly in his ski mask.

Caradoc said, I don’t know anyone. I’m just dragging that deer.

You need it? The man gestured behind him with his thumb.

What, the deer?

Yeah. You really need this thing?

Yes. I need it.

The man looked back to where his friend was and tilted the flashlight to his own chin so that his friend could see his grin. Then he turned the light on Caradoc once again. You know, I don’t think you do. I think you must have a lot of deer, running around these pretty hills.

Caradoc was silent.

The man took a step toward him, his mouth was fogging up, his face small canyons of shadow. You know, he said. I think you can afford to let us take this thing. I think you’re being selfish.

The second man, out of sight, chimed in:

Just fuckin take it, JD. He’s not gonna do shit. Or I’ll shoot his ass.

I think we need to check to see if he’s got a tag, said JD. Grinning. I think we need to see if he’s not an Old Birth. The old one back there, we cut him near in half looking for his tag. And then we found he was an Old Birth, when we poked around. Think we may need to poke around your insides too.

Caradoc spit.

Fuck you, he said.

Let’s get that deer and go, said the second man.

JD looked at him. Then at Caradoc. Then he shined his light down at the deer where it lay frozen stiff in the snow. His face screwed up.

Wait a minute, he said. Where’s the bow at?- and this was just before an arrow passed through the meat of his shoulder and splintered at the bone.


Find the rest of Two Hunters on Amazon today or in a bookstore near you.


Copyright 2017 by Ethan Fleisher and Blue Wolf Bounty Books

Genocide and Time Schisms: Today’s Psychology of Wilderness and Progress

My grandfather tells me stories.

When winters came through the jack pine barrens of northwest Minnesota with such tenacity that the world was washed away. Disappeared in a violent white. -50 wind-chill, 80mph winds. They tied a rope from the door of the house to the barn so that they could find their way through the snow blind to feed the cattle. The creek below the hill, tucked back in a low slough shrouded by white pine, would stay open and running through the winter months. They boiled the frigid waters. Wandered bleary eyed in the morning to fill a basin. A kitchen saturated in the smell of woodsmoke and side pork.

Sometimes he talks about those ancient beasts that were so commonplace to his prior universe. Characters not only roaming the scablands of the post-depression era but of his heart. His eyes impart a depth when he gets to these parts of the tale.


He describes the Prairie Chicken.

A small beast. A mostly ground-dwelling bird, about the size of a small chicken (and similar shape, hence the name). “Well we used to just lean right out the windows of our car at times,” he admits. “They would be feeding in the cornfield, see, and we would just lean right out the window and pop em off. That was the last time I ever saw one around here, actually. I stopped on the way home and popped one and drove up and down the road, because it was illegal to shoot them even at that time. Then I took home. A dark meat. Really good eating. But I think about it now, and that was the last we ever saw of em. Beautiful birds too. You don’t see them now. Not at all.”

But I did see a Prairie Chicken recently. Oddly enough, near the very cornfield my grandfather remembers shooting the last chicken he ever saw. I saw the little bird making its way below the spruce at the rim of the field, its plumage dark and luxurious. It was bent low and scrounging for grub. I did not think about it enough when I saw it: that it may be the place of the last Prairie Chicken I ever see, too.

The Greater Prairie Chicken was a colorful bird once commonplace in Western Minnesota. Although it was first thought to dominate only the American midwest, “blocking out the sun” of the Great Plains and the tall-grass prairie. But forks and fingers of the tallgrass prairie reach throughout North Dakota, western Minnesota, and into the southern tallgrass plains of Manitoba, and one way or another the birds made their way into the furthest reaches of the northern prairie. There is debate as to when and how the birds came to exist there, but all the same, they did.

Today, it is rare to find a Greater Prairie Chicken anywhere, but even rarer in western Minnesota. I have that image of the bird frozen in my mind now, but already it’s melting away. Turning fuzzy. Just like the conifer bog where I laid eyes on it, my memory of the Prairie Chicken will continue to change, to shrink, and to blur, until one day, it will not be a memory at all, but a story, a half-true yarn, kept in a half-true history, shrouded and dust-covered in some corner of my failing mind.



Wild animals and the landscapes they live in have occupied their own wonderful, innate, and sometimes fearful position in the human heart. For thousands of years they were central to understanding of our understanding of the universe. We saw the world as an inherently wild place. The world was Cormac McCarthy’s Mexico: there was no order in it “save that which death has put there.”

Things have changed.

When our new generations view the world, they see it through the lens of an android, not the eyes of an animal. No other shift in perception has changed the world more. Not first wave feminism, neo-liberalism, or even capitalism. It was however the primary shift that engendered these movements: we saw ourselves as awaking from a nasty, brutish chrysalis into some new beautiful meta-human. Spiritually, we witnessed ourselves ascend from the status of half-man, half-animal, into a half-man half-angel. Today we can update that viewpoint one step further to half-man half-machine. We are androidian. 

Although this shift from animal to android brought unprecedented wealth to certain parts of civilization, it had cataclysmic effects on our wilderness. The wild inordinate world is no longer our psychological foreground. It is an afterthought. A mythic place set in the past.

Nothing could put our wild environments in a more precarious position. Wilderness still exists, though much of our government sponsored “environmentalists” claim the opposite. But it exists as a kind of waking dream. It is a place that embodies collectively our past but no part of our future: from the very origin of our species to the second Industrial Revolution. Yet it does not, in our new androidian hive-mind, represent anything resembling the world we see as our present and future. What has occurred is that the present-future vectors of our psychology have been cleaved in two. There is present-future on one temporal axis, and past on another. In our hyper-technological world, present-future can be lumped into one category. We remind ourselves of this ontology often in the expression, “the future is now.”

Somehow, however, the past has been shoved into a state of perpetual extinction. It is waning away; we are weaning ourselves off it like a teenager leaving the comfort of their parent’s guidance. As a result, there is very little hope that wilderness will survive into the future; it is effectively gated out of the dominant human world-view. It is set in a temporal landscape that looks like a cemetery. Everything is declared dead there regardless of its taciturn locus in the present. Its purpose in the present-future complex is simply to remind us that a past existed at all.

Think about this. The future has not happened yet, but it can be shaped by what is occurring in the present. That is why they are being seen as interconnected elements. But the past is gone. It is inert. It is a fossil.

Our wild places and our wild societies are being fossilized before they’re even dead.

Although it may seem like a natural psychological progression given humanity’s “progress”, but we must remember that this is progress designed by the colonial industrial ruling class. In fact, we can really begin to see how insidious this mindset is when we admit to ourselves that the whole of the world’s population of indigenous peoples fits into this categorical past-life as well. Along with the wild world they have built their societies around, indigenous people are being sent to the gulags and gas chambers of civilization’s past, right along with the staples of their worldviews: wilderness.


When wilderness and our last standing wild places are placed in a world that, to dominant industrial culture, stands outside of our current and future realm, it stands no chance of survival. The psychological schism we are creating in the new generations will the last damnation it could possibly suffer. They have already forgotten wilderness. Their idea of environmentalism looks more like gardening and shopping splurges at Trader Joe’s than it does the actual environments they pretend to somehow represent. The past is not the past if it is still living today.

Let me be perfect clear here. What I am describing is the psychological finishing touches on a thousand-year old genocide that will finally be finished when our new generations come to fruition in the world. The industrial ruling class has weaponized everything to this end. To finish off and decimate that last annoying splinters of the earth’s natural world so that the new “present-future” view of the earth can take over in totality. We are weaponized. Our industries are weaponized.

“The past is never where you left it.” Katherine Anne Porter


Two Headed Snake: A Double-Sided American Crisis



Lately I’ve been getting the feeling that we can’t go back anymore. We can’t hit a reset button to some erstwhile period of bliss. And I don’t mean historically or sociologically. The idea that there was ever a very good time in recorded history to return to is ludicrous. By civilization’s standards, we are sitting pretty high on the hog in America. Any industrial nation can say the same: advanced medicine and attempts at democracy have given the world unprecedented levels of comfort. But ironically, the suicide rate in industrial nations is higher than ever, especially in the United States and Britain. This is puzzling, considering that we are in such a position of luxury.

Many ideologues of today’s strange academic climate will argue differently. They will say that for many minorities, things are still dire. I’m not an academic though, so I don’t need to save face lying to myself. Or you. I’m an artist who likes to pretend to be an intellectual every now and then. But when I look out at the country I live in, I see improvement everywhere from just two hundred years ago (that’s not a long time in the scope of what we call “progress”), although I would never go as far as to say that things are “good” for some minorities. But all in all, we’re not dropping like flies from diphtheria, facing crushing infant mortality rates, starving to death en masse, or being mass murdered by political tyrants. I’m not saying those things might not occur in the future, but at this time, we are doing alright in terms of survival.

Yet, spiritually and psychologically, it doesn’t take a very astute mind to see that we sick. As a culture, we seem to be infected with some raging disease of unhappiness. We see it in manifestations everywhere but we have a hard time pin-pointing exactly what ails us. Our young men are killing themselves at mortifying rates, our young women are depressed more than any time in recent history, and the problem only seems to be magnifying.

Our media and our intellectual elites are doing their best to take on these issues in splintered factions. They would like to address each symptom of civil breakdown in as orderly and grotesquely simplified way as possible. There is an interesting and problematic cultural tendency occurring as a result: fewer and fewer people are buying into the media and academic elite’s obvious bullshitting, and they are looking instead into even more dubious places for the truth. They begin looking into what Donald Trump has called “Fake News”, which is, you know, opposed to the real news, which is also often fabricated. Ironically, Donald Trump himself capitalizes on Fake News every day. But this is no different than the liberal talk pieces who admonished the high idealism of men embracing equality for women that were later found to be sexual predators. The world is rife with slanderers, snake oil salesmen, and rapists. Not on your block, most likely. But if you were to drive down the right gated off neighborhood, with security cameras at every ten feet of the fence and pretty cedar trees blocking the view of their multi-million dollar estates, you would be driving by absolute sociopaths.

Our reaction to this crisis of morality and order, at this time, is to politicize every tragedy and enemy. To use each bit of new information as weaponry at each other. We are a nation divided. But as sad as the breakdown of a civil society is- which is what are witnessing- we are in the throes of a much more sinister breakdown that cannot be fixed.

Civil breakdown happens all the time in history. It’s not, by any measure, the end of the world. We see it on the news often in other countries. Now it’s happening to us. But what makes this breakdown feel so eerily apocalyptic is that there truly is an apocalyptic breakdown occurring behind the scenes:

Our wild ecologies are disintegrating at morbid rates, and we are doing almost nothing to stop it but yelling at each other and voting in new sociopaths to run the same broken machine that it has always been.

Our wilderness is in a far worse position than it is has ever been, at least in recent history, and it doesn’t take a scientist to see it happening. It only takes close observation of our wild places, and some brief history lessons of our natural spaces. Millennials had time to witness the near eradication of our amphibians. Remember guys, when we would go look under rocks at Grandpa’s house, or at the cabin by the lake, and find all kinds of salamanders, skinks, and other amphibians? Try that now. Check out those same places.

Chances are you won’t find them.

Remember the flying squirrel?

You won’t find them around much anymore either.

These are just two examples of pretty common critters from my childhood that have nearly disappeared in the last two decades. Closer scientific observation has revealed that the ecology of our wild places really is falling apart. Aside from pretty much annihilating half of the wild animal populations of the earth in the last century, new studies have revealed that insect populations are decreasing at alarming rates across the globe.

If an insect apocalypse occurs, as some scientists are now warning against, we are all toast, and so is pretty much everything else living on this planet.

A social and ecological doomsday is coming, and both are symptoms of one fatal disease:

Humanity’s addiction to technology, which begat our addiction to overconsumption.


            We know that our current farming techniques is genocide for the environment, but we would rather see an ecological apocalypse than admit that our JD tractors are somehow flawed. We are glad to vote in “green” politicians, and throw our trash in a separate garbage can, but we would never think of sharing a cell phone with our partner (which would save money as well), or not upgrading to that newest Notebook. But, but, Ethan, I hear all the time. Those are clean technologies!

Not at all. Not only are cell phone towers causing increases in mortality rates(1) in many bird populations, but are doing heavy damage to amphibian and mammal populations as well (2). And we are only a couple decades in- we don’t yet know the long term effects.

Cell phones also contain many toxic compounds that need to be mined in highly specialized ways. So the phones are toxic themselves, are toxic when thrown away, and toxic when they are in the creation process. Yet we are expected by each other to have one. I can speak from experience- when you ditch your cellphone, people get angry. To not have a cellphone is akin socially as walking around with your pants around your ankles and your middle finger in the air.

Another byproduct of our civil breakdown is the complete polarization of real-world issues. Often, the polarizing creates meaningless results either way. When we look at young liberals’ obsession with “climate change”, we would assume they would be boycotting harmful corporations, ditching their smart phones, and not buying oil-guzzling vehicles. Yet a Forbes study found that 70 percent of Millennials were not interested in electronic cars, and prefer internal combustion engines (4). It doesn’t matter anyway, since electronic cars still require extensive mining and oil consumption to actually make the car. We would assume that Millennials would be ditching their smart phones, since they are disastrous for the environment. Yet virtually all Millennials in the US have or have had a smart phone. I think it doesn’t take much of a poll to see that most of us young folks not only own a smart phone, but a Tablet device and a Lap Top, as well as a TV. The mining alone required to feed us these devices is enough to devastate entire ecologies.

This is the irony of “climate change”. It is real- we know it is- but it is only a tiny part of the ecological disaster facing us today. The reason we focus on “carbon emissions” is because we have been told that it’s not our fault. It’s the fault of a few massive corporations, and we can fix it, if we just vote in the right gal or guy to do the job. “It’s out of our hands,” we say. “We can do nothing about it. The scientists and the politicians will fix it.”

Luckily for these massive corporations, most of the public who calls themselves “green” spend about as much time out in the wild as they do at the public library. Wilderness, as a place in the human heart, is already gone. Unfortunately for the earth, we have been equipped by evolution (or perhaps some other misunderstood force?) to kill almost everything else on the earth before we kill ourselves. It would be well for the Red Wolf or the Flying Squirrel if we weren’t so well equipped; we would have undoubtedly brought ourselves to extinction long ago. But like any addict, we hurt others far more than we hurt ourselves. Until we hit rock bottom.


            Rock bottom is coming. We are witnessing the beginning of an ecological collapse that, all evidence accounted for, we cannot survive. If, like scientists are beginning to point out, our insect population declines too low, we will witness extinction at rates never before seen (5), from mammals to plants to birds and reptiles.

The techno-brainwashed lunatics among us just sneer at this great extinction. They say, “Genetic modification will allow us to repopulate and save the planet.”

But this is the same mad-scientist pride-choked mindset that got us in this situation in the first place.

There is no easy way out. In fact, there may be no way out at all. But we can’t say we are trying if we continue to follow the same insane strictures we have been. We are obsessing over our own civil breakdowns. Cute ephemeral social movements are sweeping the internet every day. But the Red Wolf doesn’t care about #MeToo. The Flying Squirrel doesn’t care about Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, or Donald Trump. The insects of the earth are not concerned with whether or not equality is achieved among the sexes, or among different races. We should, as humans, obviously- but we can’t confused these human-centric cultural maneuvers for environmentalism. And if we continue to lump environmentalism in with other liberal talking points, like feminism, free college, and universal healthcare, there is a good chance we will complete the most unnecessary and total extinction the planet has ever seen.

Chances are, we won’t even notice it until that final breaking point. We will be binge watching Orange is the New Black, patting ourselves on the back for being such good humans, and our eyes will fall to that “I Voted” badge on our dresser, right next to our new I-Pad, and we will look out and think, “Didn’t there used to be trees out there? Or… animals?” But, like any good addict, we will quickly return to our regularly scheduled program.












A Hole in the World: Lonesome Crowded Lake Country

Of course this banishment from a steady economy comes with dark consequences. Drugs and alcohol fuel the Northwoods daily atmosphere.

There are places in Northern Minnesota that are lost in a dimension and time of their own.

You can only find them off the freeways, miles down some serpentine county road. They have names reminiscent of a spirit of the land that some believe is extinct. Some say it has been snuffed out. If it is true, then the names are merely reminders of a soul and not supplementary to its remains. They fan no embers but creates memorials to a flame.

These places are resort towns now. The logging industry has been thwarted by public disinterest and nosy governmental regulation and the small farms are mostly gone. But if they thrive anywhere in North Country they thrive in the rich soils east of the Red River, from the very edge of the Minnesota’s westward swing of the Laurentian deep into the heartland of the state, where there you can still notice the machine life breath of an economy in the air, riding on the wind.

The geographical center of Minnesota is located on Big Island in Fishtrap Lake, in the Lincoln Lakes area. This island is owned by a millionaire, who you can find sitting on a modest dock that juts from massive white pine and exotic cedars not typically found in that region. He’s laconic. He’ll wave to you as you kayak by. His cabin is as modest as his dock and were you to pass the island on a speedboat you may very well miss it. Just the way he likes it, I’m sure.

But when you move North you enter the regions propped tremendously through the years by heavy industry. The industries are gone now, and after nightfall, you can feel it. A ghostly feeling. As if a great experiment were tried, and what stands there now is the failed attempts.

Recreation drives these economies now. Resort towns where old boom towns used to reside. The impact of recreation on the local economies boggles the mind. The town of Park Rapids fluctuates in population alone so much through the seasons that it seems to be two different communities altogether from the summer to the winter months. From around 3,000 in the winter to somewhere close to 50,000 during the summer, according to locals there.

Of course this banishment from a steady economy comes with dark consequences. Drugs and alcohol fuel the Northwood’s daily atmosphere. Minnesota’s Forest Area is held hostage by alcohol, as are most towns in their position. Locals become perpetual tourists, trapped in the party atmosphere their town has to create in order to make money. In the summer there is no time.

The nights become muggy eternities, dreamy twilights that last forever. A retirement of the soul. The peace and tranquility that the Northwoods brings are only half of it; don’t let them fool you. But a chosen few really understand the land that gives them their lives of decadence. Others swim in a psychological funnel of nostalgia and drunkenness. Opiates run rampant in these communities, and until very recently they have not really been discussed. Fueled by intoxication, an already intoxicating landscape can become perilous to the soul.

You’ll find the lakeland-lifers at the resort bars every night. A different one but in the same town each day of the week. They stumble out the bar when they leave, after listening to the folks singers passing through, stuck in their own perpetual intoxication. A twilight zone, if you’re not careful.

The land is what snaps me out of it. If I remain in that bubble of decadence and blissful loneliness too long without a reminder of what it was supposed to be about, I become that stranger in a strange land that so many of us crave to be. To know the weird freedom and entrapment of waking up in a resort hotel and watching the wealthy come to and fro with their fishing rigs and grinning children and watching the local fisherman drink in silence, all over a cup of cheap coffee and a four-star breakfast. To know what it is to step out the door for a cigarette and smell the tourism and the lake breeze  and the inexplicable lostness.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

-Hotel California, written and performed by the Eagles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere booms come and go like tumbleweed.

Dream Shepherd

Under night.
Night touches the dark tracks
of pine
rooting in the between-worlds,
there rouses spirits
once called tricksters
once called teachers.

Now they only frighten us,
so we tell stories
of how they might condemn us.

I hear the whip-or-will.
It sings from the first moment
of utter dark
to the first moment
of pregnant light.
My tracks are soundless
and take flight
in the dusky shadows
as doves
or peregrines,
birds that may take my
step to dream heights.

The night world and the world
of dream
are not separated,
but are like two silver paths
who meet in a center
at a crossroads.

are made
from the breathing void
and they fly on the wings of bats
into our dozing heads.
There are shepherds, who in that world
guide their dream flock

to crossroads
that see no false light
that do not bare the stamp of man
we find the places of soul offering
portals we cannot cross.
My soul is a portal tonight
that all may cross.

A shepherd,
staff in hand,
points the way over sleep-green knolls
into vernal waters where
he knows nightmares are to be fished.
The flock posesses a unity
swims through the dark river
of nothing
their bevy dancing through ether
colored like flashing coins of deja-vu.

Everything lives under the moon now.

Tonight my soul is open.
I cannot hold a grudge
when power is glistening
in every blade of sedge grass
every trembling bulrush.
Tonight, on the waters
glowbugs haunt
and the ghosts gawk at the beauty,
taking small souls in jars.
Tonight my soul is open.
I do not fear the dark
but am wary at the sound
of footsteps approach

Deer Hunting

Are you on fire in whales skin?
Sparkling, are you spitting?
My love is gone from the skin I’m in
rattling round, making viscous din
the object of my wandering down
to the creek where it was that I first found
something to hold in my eyes and both
a stalk of corn, clouds to roast
despite the risk it entails I’ll propose
we commit ourselves to the task at hand
of handing over our baggage, we land
and I meet you there with open arms
you were there for me when may come harm
snakes don’t scare me, but paranoias deep
I look over shoulders, most nights I can’t sleep
and if I never read the horoscope
horsetail would still fall in hexagon scope
and the mystic would laugh and tell me a lie
and watch me with his wide third eye
so I’ll take you with me to fire a gun
into the flesh of an earthen prize
that causes the flesh to prickle, rise
and that is why I will not lie
most of the time
that is why I will not lie
most of the time