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20th Anniversary Rendezvous - Stephanie Mills

In two decades, we've all but trashed the planet, so two decades have ingrained in me the habit of lamenting lost life forms, lost lands, lost lifeways. Two decades have brought us within hailing distance of the millennium, have thickened our thighs, thinned our hair, deepened our ruts, lined our pockets, and tried our souls. Two decades seem to have confounded most people's thinking about how to steer the darn thing, what we might optimistically expect, and what to pray for from, and for, our fellow homo sappys. Two decades have grown tots into teens and even some tots from those teens. They've ensnared ecohippies in neckties and lured yuppies back to the land.

Two decades is plenty of time to begin getting older, maybe even wiser. Two decades haven't changed my mind about much, though. An exhaustive survey of my juvenalia has confirmed that. Twenty years after the Whole Earth was discovered, I still believe that ecological destruction is problem numero uno, that civilization has a vested interest in continuing that destruction, and that only magic, which incorporates anarchism, can prevail against that interest. A few notions of class enmity have joined my late-blooming flower-child stereotypes, but no Great Satan.

It worries me to admit that in certain ways my mind seems to operate like Reagoon's, bearing an idiosyncratic and none-too-faithful relationship to details, going steady with certain big ideas. Quantities of new information handily fit the ol' ecopocalyptic paradigm. But new knowledge spawns awe, wonder, mystery, tenderness, and open curiosity.

If I haven't changed my mind about much, it seems that grace, will, and the passage of time have changed much about my mind. For one thing, my mind is now uncon-taminated by consciousness-altering substances. And that my mind should serve at the pleasure of my heart, and not the other way around, has become a frequent prayer.

Of course, those fleeting moments of being from the heart play hob with stereotypes and inevitabilities. Be careful about praying for the quality of compassion: some of compassion is suffering with. Suffering is labor and experience. Compassion may be all the fulfillment I'll see this time around; the earth may not get saved in my day. But the compassion now seems indispensable to the liberation and restoration.

Consequently the questions I am asking myself these days are mainly theological. I'm doing some sightseeing on the spiritual highways. If magic is what it will take to hearten us for the trip out of this life-despising moment, then one must approach the sources of magic, and miracles as well: Spirits; Selves; Gods, Plural: Immanent, personal, located, and particular.

A lot of the miracles I need minute by minute have to do with getting weaned from things. Things are gouged, from, and ultimately buried in the Mother's hide. Even knowing that, stuff is a tough jones to kick.

Could I be twenty today? It's a whole new culture, not my favorite. I enjoy my self, and the most savory parts are not of this end of the century. If I were twenty today, I'd probably feel even madder about being cheated of a liveable planet than I did when I was twenty in 1968. I'd wonder what was meant by "free love."

If I were twenty today, I'd go to organizing school, tracker school, study restoration ecology, and become a homeopathic physician/analyst. I'd find a fellowship and look for incredible mentors.

If in twenty years I'm not moulderin' in the grave, I'll be pleased, and surprised. I'll hope to be spry, to know the plants, and how to heal with them. I'll hope to be able to grow things and put them by. In twenty years I hope I'll be making sauce from apples picked from the trees we planted in May of '88, and to watch oak trees emerging from the backyard monocrop of pines.

In twenty years, I intend to be looking forward to my silver wedding anniversary and to have, by then, some understanding of what it is to love.

In twenty years I will be trying to eke out another era of service from my Olivetta Lettera portable, still practicing the vanishing art of manually changing typewriter ribbons.

In twenty years I hope I will have gained some self-master/, and a sense of how and when it's necessary and useful to lead. 'Long about then I'll be aspiring to be an elder.