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Been Thinkin' About...Shamans and farmers all

"Americano, 16 ounces, extra shot please." The cavernous and wooden space smells like muffins, a good smell. Rustic hippie stickers lie near the cash register. One sticker catches my eye. Swirling series of greens and yellows and oranges edging surreal mountains and trees, centered by a great white moon. A shaman's woods, a magic, wild space, the Ozarks that never were and always are.

Words are strange, magic things, hinting of the past, ever-questioning the future.

Where the Ozarks are, where they really are, is always up for argument by the pedantic and jealous. Mountain plateau at times blanketed by good earth, rolling farms upset expectations of the word "mountain." So much farmland, so many fields. Cattle and hay, pigs and chickens and sheep, tomatoes, and strawberries, and corn. Tractors to till the fertile — albeit rocky — earth. Farms are where poets are made but rarely remain.

To be a farmer, a poet's soul is poorly placed. Staid, practical, the bottom line depends not on dreams or words but reality, and a butt load of luck time and time again. Entrepreneurs against their will, backs against the wall. "Free trade" and "globalism" were cheap, easy words back in the '90s, teasing hope of some kind of world's fair utopia. Only a few saw the dangers, the wide swath of cheerful destruction, abandoned homes, hopeless kids dead from meth or drunk driving, the collapse of the middle rural class. "Mental health is important," chide indulgent, impotent experts. Our destruction is academic to them and they won't be drinking in the midnight. Government jobs are the last to go. Rising taxes make sure of that.

"Everyone should be an entrepreneur at least once," Megan Newberry is saying, even as storm clouds roll overhead. She and Chad own the Rockin N Ranch in Green Forest, Arkansas. We are standing on the concrete pad of the Hollister Farmers Market as I check the radar. Will the storm close the market? It doesn’t. We bluff bad weather constantly. Working for yourself destroys self-entitlement. Putting your soul — and financial future — on the line to serve others is majestically, painfully vulnerable. Critics are those who hide in caves, coming down after the battle to shoot the wounded. In a world of social media, critics are a dime a dozen. We have become a civilization of arrogant consumers, not humble creators. No, farming in this world is not for the faint-hearted, even as our lives and tables depend upon it.

The mountains call enigmatically. Pastoral, strange hidden space between spaces, whispers beyond the soul in the night. Ozark mountains are not something you see from a distance, muscular or imposing. Instead, these are mountains you must seek out, places of peace and tears, forgotten memories haunting coves and ridges, lost, overlooked, sometimes replaced by subdivisions. And we wonder why the ghosts rattle loudly in the expensive granite-lit kitchens not meant to be there, the place where once all was scrub oak favored only by squirrels and beetles.

Shamans have no place in this new world. Modernity has plenty of time for pharmaceuticals and analysts, therapists and well-groomed people in well-groomed offices. The only thing worthy of respect is that which can be bought, sold and sterilized. The American Medical Association made sure of that a couple of lifetimes ago. Morality and ethics rearranged, timelines shifted hard left and right. We have short memories, after all, are an easily distracted, easily deceived people. The great illusions of our time are the ones we never saw, never even knew they were there.

There is no sacred space for the healers, the walkers between the worlds, no one approved to journey hard and rugged into the impossible realms, to return back to the people with treasure not for profit but for healing. No shamans left, it seems. They were told to get degrees or work as checkout clerks. But yet the mountains call, all the way to the fields and pastures of our minds. Which of us will beckon to that call, answering a desperate need for pragmatic, otherworldly healers? Who will take off our shoes, shedding trite expectation, and walk barefoot the ridges? Only a few. Those who are wounded, thrown away, but yet strong, stubborn, loving, angry. Shamans and farmers all. 

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