Stacey and I met John Duke about ten years ago. He had just taken ownership of a veterinarian practice. After a few years of running a business John knew it wasn't what he wanted to do. He sold the practice and headed to Ely, Minnesota.
John worked in Ely, bought a house there and for the second time didn't get married to a particular woman. While stationed in Ely, John began sending me small pieces he wrote covering what he was up to. He talked about his life and job in Ely. In Ely he was a guide and would take small groups on 2 week canoeing treks from Canada to Ely.
John soon got his self qualified to be a Ranger in the National Redwood Park. He did this for a season, then back to Minnesota. He enrolled in classes in Duluth and has recently relocated back to the south. He lives back in the Atlanta area now and commutes to Auburn University and further to Baldwin County, Alabama. where he studies wet lands.
This is his latest "transmission".
I was standing at the bar talking to an acquaintance and her friend. I had just met them and they wanted to know what I was doing at Auburn. I explained to them that I was studying wetland ecology but with a bent on what you might call “real world” applications – things like understanding how urbanization affects our ability to manage water storage. I also research “at what level of urbanization do wetlands quit providing quality wildlife habitat.” And a 3rd component would be how urbanization affects their ability to cycle nutrients, such as carbon. Then I got “the question.” “Do you believe in Global Warming?” I said, “No mam. Right now I am a practicing Buddhist.”
The next day I went over to the dean’s secretary office so that I could get on payroll. I have a 1200 dollar a month stipend coming to me for all this work I’m doing for my major professor. Right now I have been driving down to Baldwin County, Alabama looking for potential wetlands for the project. The secretary was a finely dressed, fit and trim woman in her middle ages. She had an elegant style to her mannerisms and had all the politeness and cordiality of southern charm. We talked about how many deductions I should claim and so forth. Then I got “the statement.” “I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they get their tax return back this year.” Except she said the word “year” like Scarlett O-Hara would have – “Yhe-ahh.” It must have been the liberal leanings I have that were emanating across the room in unseen vibes for her to want to prompt a debate with me. I don’t think I had on my Obama T-shirt, however. That would have really pissed some people off – I’m not that stupid. I just smiled and said,“Yes mam.”
So the next week, I had to drive back down to Baldwin County and I found a great spot along Highway 59, the main street through Foley that heads down to the beaches. There was a beautiful Magnolia swamp right next to where all the cars were whizzing by. But, the best access was going to be from the parking lot of a local radio station office. So I pulled into the lot and walked inside. There was a nice elderly lady sitting at the desk, answering the phone. I waited patiently out away from the desk and with my eyes diverted so that she wouldn’t think I was in a hurry or anything. She hung up the phone and asked,“Hi there! Can I help you?”“Yes mam. My name is John Duke. It is so nice to meet you. I am a graduate student at Auburn University and…..” As concisely as possible I went on to explain what my intentions were and that I was requesting access across their property. She was very helpful and didn’t think it would be a problem at all. She gave me the station manager’s phone number and then I got “the invitation.” “Do you have a church? If you don’t I would like to invite you to mine next Sunday.” “Thank you, mam. But you see, I am a practicing Buddhist.”