"So you make this deal with the gods. You do these dances and they'll send rain and good crops and the whole works? And nothing bad will ever happen. Right." Prayer had always struck me as more or less a glorified attempt at a business transaction. A rain dance even more so.
I thought I might finally have offended Loyd past the point of no return, like stealing the lobster from frozen foods that time, to get myself fired. But Loyd was just thinking. After a minute he said, "No, it's not like that. It's not making a deal, bad things can still happen, but you want to try not to cause them to happen. It has to do with keeping things in balance."
"Really, it's like the spirits have made a deal with us."
"And what is the deal," I asked.
"We're on our own. The spirits have been good enough to let us live here and use the utilities, and we're saying: We know how nice you're being. We appreciate the rain, we appreciate the sun, we appreciate the deer we took. Sorry if we messed up anything. You've gone to a lot of trouble and we'll try to be good guests."
"Like a note you'd send to somebody after you stayed in their house?"
"Exactly like that. Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch. I took some beer out of the refrigerator, and I broke a coffee cup. Sorry, I hope it wasn't your favorite one."
I laughed because I understood "in balance." I would have called it "keeping the peace," or maybe "remembering your place," but I liked it. "It's a good idea," I said. "Especially since we're still here sleeping on God's couch. We're permanent houseguests."
"Yep, we are. Better remember how to put everything back how we found it."
It was a new angle on religion, for me. I felt a little embarrassed for my blunt interrogation. And the more I thought about it, even more embarrassed for my bluntly utilitarian culture.
"They way they tell it to us Anglos, God put the earth here for us to use, westwardho. Like a special little playground."
Loyd said, "Well, that explains a lot."
It explained a hell of a lot. I said quietly, because the dancers' bells were quieting down, "But where do you go when you've pissed in every corner of your playground?" I looked down at Koshari, who had ditched his cowboy hat and gun and seemed to be negotiating with Jack.
I remembered Loyd one time saying he'd die for the land. And I'd thought he meant patriotism. I'd had no idea. I wondered what he saw when he looked at the Black Mountain mine: the pile of dead tailings, a mountain cannibalizing its own guts and soon to destroy the living trees and home lives of Grace. It was such an American story, it was hardly even interesting. After showing me his secret hot springs, Loyd had told me the Jemez Mountains were being mined savagely for pumice, the odd Styrofoam-like gravel I'd thrown into the air in handfuls. Pumice was required for the manufacture of so-called distressed denim jeans.
To people who think of themselves as God's houseguests, American enterprise must seem arrogant beyond belief. Or stupid. A nation of amnesiaces, proceeding as if there were no other day but today. Assuming the land could also forget what had been done to it.
~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams