The Far Side of the Alleghenies – Signals, Cells, Networks, and Nature

What follows is a bit of a ramble. My experience is that when I go forth in the world, stories sometimes land at my feet. Disparate episodes logged away and semi-forgotten may pop into my consciousness later bringing clarity to ideas I’ve been pondering. So, consider this entry a rather unstructured journaling exercise, notes for a work in progress spinning around the nature of communication (or mis-communication), signals, cells, electricity, and nature. There are synchronicities there, I’m sure.

I went camping this week. It wasn’t anything too adventurous, car camping, but my first solo venture as a single traveling gal. I needed to be out of my house for four days, and I’m on a budget, so it seemed like a good option. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s advice that humans should seek out and listen to the old beings was rolling around in the back of my mind. In the dog days of summer where better to be than with ancient moss-covered stones who keep their counsel in a deep, watery shade? I packed up my tent, the one that had served me well in South Dakota during the summer of 2020, and headed west across the Allegheny Front. It’s the wrinkled mid-section of Pennsylvania where a late Paleozoic collision with the continent that would become Africa left its indelible mark. For twenty-eight dollars in Turnpike tolls, I bought the right for my trusty Subaru to tunnel through several old, old sandstone mountains – sections of petrified sea floor turned towering range then over millennia worn down to softly undulating ridges blanketed with maple, beech, oak, tulip poplar, hemlock, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. 

In this photo you may see that I ruined my glasses, which were already out of balance. They fell off my head when I was hammering in my tent stakes, and I didn’t notice until I stepped on them. I’d brought several books to read, including Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, recommended to me by a friend. I felt like Burgess Meredith in that end-of-the-world Twilight Zone episode. I muddled my way through though and ordered a new pair yesterday. I’ll need them if (when) I get a job interview. 

Under the weight of that ancient rock, I was transported into a different kind of time. A perfect accompaniment for a sojourner hoping to wander outside traditional time for a while was the audio-book of Madeleine L’Engle’s, “A Swiftly Tilting Planet.” It’s the third installment of her time quintet, which was published in 1978. The plot has to do with our potential to alter timelines, which brings to mind physicist Hugh Everett III’s Many Worlds Theory; the Oscar-winning “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once;” and the clip I made with Marc Petit from Epic Games and Neil Trevett of the Khronos group and Nvidia Ecosystems where the two men discuss the potential for blockchain ledgers to be used to explore alternative futures as a sort of virtual time/teleportation machine.

In L’Engle’s book, a crisis arises in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. Charles Wallace is tasked by Meg’s mother-in-law to use St. Patrick’s Rune, which she learned from her grandmother, to save the earth from nuclear destruction by Mad Dog Branzillo. Branzilllo’s character is a South American dictator who has ancestral ties to Wales and Connecticut, and Vespugia (a fictional country near Patagonia). The Cain and Abel-inspired plot features the bloodlines of two brothers, one who embodies good, the other evil.

Charles Wallace’s task is to kythe, enter into bodies of a series of people living in the past; discover a path to “what might have been;” and then subtly shift the balance away from world annihilation. This he ultimately achieves with the help of a unicorn companion by the name of Gaudior. Despite the happy ending, I was somewhat disconcerted, given what I know now, by the use of a nuclear threat to force a change. Also, when the “good guy” takes his place in the new timeline his pure intentions are for “peace” and “redistribution of goods” across the world. Of course, this “sounds good” to my former left-leaning self, but I now realize that the intent of the planetary computer / World Brain system is to substitute cybernetic homeostasis for “peace.” Also, you can be sure that whatever redistribution takes place will not be beyond the reach of global defense and finance interests. Most likely it would be facilitated by a HAL 9000-inspired web3 protocol layer with built-in game mechanics to better manage us as agents in an “open metaverse” collective.

Charles’s sister Meg accompanies him on this journey from her bedroom via sibling telepathy and provides occasional research support. Her cuddly companion and comfort animal is a recently-arrived stray dog whom Charles named Ananda, Sanskrit for eternal bliss and union with the godhead. An anchor for the story is a fictitious book, “The Horn of Joy,” written by a fictitious Civil War-era author, Matthew Maddox. A theme running throughout the plot line is the importance of remembering the ancient songs, bringing back lost harmonies, and finding joy in the world. I was going to the mountains in search of just this. Below is the rune from the story, based on the St. Patrick’s Hymn before Tarah. Meg’s mother-in-law Branwen was of Irish descent. Being more out on my own these days in choppy waters, I’ll admit to working to commit it to memory. I find it comforting, and maybe you will, too.

“At Tara in this fateful hour

I place all Heaven with its power

And the sun with its brightness

And the snow with its whiteness

And the fire with all the strength it hath

And the lightning with its rapid wrath

And the winds with their swiftness along their path

And the sea with its deepness

And the rocks with their steepness

And the earth with its starkness

All these I place

By God’s almighty help and grace

Between myself and the powers of darkness!”

Though modest compared to their western cousins, the ridge of the Appalachians made no easy crossing 250 years ago. On the return trip, I took the long way home to save on tolls, which led me east along U.S. Route 40. It was a passage that started out as a footpath through Maryland’s Cumberland narrows blazed by Chief Nemacolin and was later improved by General Braddock for military maneuvers during the French and Indian War. As pressure mounted from frontiersman looking to make their futures in the Northwest Territory, it became one of the nation’s first federally-funded public works projects. The National Road linked the Potomac and Ohio watersheds, made many fortunes, and dealt a terrible blow to the Indigenous peoples on the other side of the range.

The route continued north along I-81 from Hagerstown to Harrisburg. When I saw the signs for the Carlisle exits, I knew that I had to stop to pay my respects to the children sacrificed to residential boarding schools. Carlisle was the model scaled brutally across the United States and Canada, places where native children, stolen from their families, built their own prisons. That reminds me of students today being trained to build extended reality as part of their “education.” The hospital where many of the children died is now a boutique hotel for visiting dignitaries.


When I came to Carlisle five years ago there was a boulder with a bronze plaque honoring Captain Richard Henry Pratt who proclaimed what was needed was to “kill the Indian to save the man.” This time I looked for it, but thankfully it appears to have been removed. The site of the former school is home to the US Army War College, which provides higher education opportunities to officers studying military history, strategy, and war gaming. Before I left, I pulled over to take a picture of their new $85 million 200,000 square foot academic building that was nearing completion. I imagine that fifth-generation warfare in extended reality will be a focus of study.

You have to have a background check in order to enter the campus. The cemetery that holds the bodies of the children who died at the school is situated along a busy road. The afternoon I was there the agitated stacatto of a high lift beeping as it went about its telecommunications tasks added to the steady thrum of passing cars. Whenever there is sacred work to do, energetic forces seem eager to disrupt the proceedings.

Petitions have been made to the US government to exhume the bodies, so tribes can bring their relatives home. In 2021, Rosebud Sioux youth accompanied the remains of ten children back to their ancestral lands in South Dakota. An article from the time quoted Christopher Eagle Bear, “These schools, they played a key part in trying to sever that connection to who we are as Lakota. They took away our language, they made it impossible for us to be who we really are.” There are lessons to be learned, that are applicable to our present circumstances. For the Lakota they stole their language and oral histories. Today we are moving towards a future managed by memes and mind-viruses. We are nearing a time of post-literacy, where images, often emotionally-charged, are curated to trigger us into pre-determined reactions. The strategic and harsh fracturing of indigenous culture, on the grounds of the Army War College, is something upon which we all should reflect.


Targeting children was a way to root out different ways of knowing the world. With that in mind, the focus on boosting today’s children into extended reality with Roblox, and ed-tech, and books/films like “Ready Player One” is simply a continuation of longstanding attempts to disconnect youth, native youth, from community and homelands. A century and a half later the trauma wrought over generations could be leveraged to justify pulling the linguistic cosmology of indigenous peoples into the machine. Sold as language preservation, a secondary purpose, I think, is to feed the linguistic cosmology of cultures that could be a threat to artificial intelligence into the circuits, so that a new, improved web3 can better know its opponents. Open-source intelligence is at the base of any successful military campaign. I think of the language and culture that was stolen from the children taken to Carlisle. I think about L’Engle’s book and the devastating harm caused by the suppression of ancient songs and harmonies.

The small cemetery plot flanks the entrance along a busy road, right next to the loading dock for the post’s Commissary (grocery store), which energetically feels significant. I’d taken my last braid of sweetgrass with me, and I knew I needed to leave it as an offering, a signal of care. I didn’t have other materials with me, but as often happens I simply looked around after I parked my car and creator provides. There on the ground were even tinier acorns than the ones I’d used in Bucks County along with feathers, lots of them, a blackish blue, some freshly fallen oak leaves, and a clump of wood sorrel with its tiny yellow flowers. I arranged them next to the small monument, and then I entered the gate.

Inside were six rows of white headstones, not original. The graves had been moved to its current site years ago. Most of the children died in the 1880s and 1890s. Carved upon them were most of their tribal affiliations. A few victims had been brought from as far away as Alaska. Family separation, attempted cultural erasure, indoctrination into “civilization” – what was going through the minds of these military men who perceived children living on a far-away tundra could be such a threat? A different kind of consciousness and spiritual worldview would not be tolerated in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Many headstones had Apache designations, which brought to mind the afternoon and evening Jason and I spent at Cochise Stronghold in Arizona, and what happened to the Apache and Geronimo and his skull.

I paused before each grave and said the name of the child – I see you, Joseph. I see you, Lucia. I’m sorry this happened to you. Because in order to heal we must have the strength to see the harm, to acknowledge it, and apologize, which I did probably a hundred times that afternoon. So many children whose lives were lost in a misguided effort to eliminate an animist worldview and uplift the enlightenment thinking that would take us down the path to artificial intelligence, machine learning, and dehumanization many decades hence. We’ve lost any semblance of right relationship we’ve ever had. That is what I was trying to start to reclaim by immersing myself in sacred nature for four days, to become de-domesticated and re-attuned to the communications of a naturally-networked world.

My destination was Ohiopyle State Park, located about an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh near the Maryland border in a region known as the Laurel Highlands. Wandering through the mountain laurel and blooming rhododendrons I thought back to the myth of Daphne. She was pursued by Apollo and fleeing his unwanted amorous inclinations, she begged her father Peneus, a river god, to turn her into a laurel.

Yes, the Greek laurel tree is not the same as the mountain laurel, but I feel a connection between the story of this god of the sun and light pursuing a human form and the role of water, fluid dynamics, and phase transition to this unfolding story. Later, visiting a waterfall along Johnathan Run that flowed over smooth sandstone I saw the outline of a woman created in the ripples of the water. Her head was in profile, shaded by laurels. An errant stone had broken loose to create her eye. Hair flowed out behind her, billowing skirts below, and above a trim waist were breasts created by paired currents swirling sand. To me it felt like a communication of life to life. Two women seeking shelter in nature. My photos don’t do the image justice. The apparition relied on the way the light fell across the stone and water. Trust me though, Daphne was there.

I first came to the area as a young professional working on an interpretive plan for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor (click here if you want to see my early research skills in cultural landscape analysis two decades before I encountered blockchain and web3). The area is known for two things – Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater and the Youghiogheny River’s white water. In the Lenape language Youghiogheny means “river that takes a contrary turn,” because it flows north and empties into the Monongahela River which flows to the Ohio, the Mississippi, and on to the Gulf of Mexico. As someone who’s taken a contrary turn herself, it seemed a fitting destination. The river’s contrariness, however, is a good thing in that it brings warm temperatures from the south along its route and supports unique kinds of ecosystems like the Fern Cliff Natural National Historic Landmark. It is a crossing place where plants from northern and southern climates co-mingle.

Nestled in a meander, the Fern Cliff peninsula is home to abundant, unique wildflowers. During the nineteenth-century the town of Ohiopyle became a recreational destination for affluent Pittsburgh families who traveled there on the B&O railroad. The railroad line is still active and is considered one of Amtrak’s most scenic sections in the Northeast. Numerous spur lines, now abandoned with some redeveloped as long-distance bike trails, were once used to transport coal and lumber from the surrounding hills. The name of the town comes from the Monongahela Mound Builders word ahi opihəle meaning it turns frothy white. The main street sits opposite a waterfall with a twenty-foot drop. On this trip, however, I availed myself of neither whitewater nor architectural landmarks. I just focused on rocks and water and moss and ferns and wildflowers and tried to sense whatever lessons may be out there for me to find.

As a strange and unsettling bookend to my week, I ended up watching “Masking Threshold” Saturday night. It’s a low budget psychological horror film produced by Austrian filmmaker and digital culture hacker Johannes Grenzfurthner through his artist collective Monochrom, which is based in Vienna (think Atoms for Peace, token engineering, psychoanalysis, and smart city cybernetics). I’d been researching Grenzfurthner last year after I stumbled upon another Monochrom project featuring a laminated pressed flower “community currency” carried out with Ian Grigg of Mattereum and developer of Ricardian smart contracts. There is a synchronicity with their pressed flower currency, because I saw many beautiful late summer wildflowers on my trip.

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The film premiered at the 2021 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas (think blockchain, supercomputing, and defense innovation) and featured an alarming poster design with pelvic bones paired to evoke ears that were pierced by a bloody knife. The protagonist of the film is a former physics student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, a hub for defense simulation modeling industries, who develops an unusual case of tinnitus after running an experiment with vibrating Chladni plates. He creates a home “laboratory” to try and understand the source of the tones that are ruining his life. As the film progresses, his experiments indicate the tones relate to electrical life forces emanating from cells “talking” to one another. He cannot tolerate being around groups of people, because there is too much vibrational noise from the cells in a crowd communicating.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 30 minutes

“Masking Threshold” – Timestamp 30 minutes

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His first experiments involve plants: coleus, bamboo, moss, and a vat of algae cultivated in his tub. He then starts collecting ants, slugs, and mice; purchases parakeets from a pet shop; and even steals the neighbor’s beloved dog Pebbles (think of the ripples caused by pebbles dropped in a pond). He starts to deploy his knife skills on them to see how the tones he’s experiencing change. He imagines there are different tones conveyed by a life experiencing violence and death and posits that witnesses to that violence are permanently changed based on an experience he has with ants and the hivemind. He imagines that being able to discern the changes in signal processing would be of great importance in criminal investigations and other applications. At this point he starts to consider that his “tinnitus” may actually be a gift, a grim super-power.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 56 minutes

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 50 minutes

The man is exacting in how he carries out his experiments, and contrasts his version of science, using documented quantitative proof, to earlier alchemical practices. His passing references to alchemy got my attention. Ian Grigg, Grenzfurthner’s partner on an earlier art project, works at Mattereum, a company led by Vinay Gupta, the strategic architect of Consensys, who has publicly stated he is involved in esoteric practice. The film includes a screenshot of an alchemical treatise written by Micheel Sandivogious.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 4 minutes

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 4 minutes

Sandivogious (also Michael Sendivogious) was a sixteenth-century Polish scientist who worked with occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley. He is understood to have been the first person to identify oxygen, generated by burning saltpeter, as the “food of life.” In pre-industrial times processed urine was a source of saltpeter. In the film the protagonist urinates into a test tube as he assesses the tonal change of organic and inorganic liquids. The main character also keeps a small blow-torch that he uses to burn and melt things throughout the film. Salt crystals, which are chemically different from saltpeter, are prominently featured on the Chladni plates and as a method of killing slugs. Salt is part of the alchemical Tria Prima along with sulfur (soul) and mercury (mind). It represents the earth and the body and is a vital element, playing a key role in communicating signals through the nervous system and the brain.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 20 minutes

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Sendivogious is speculated to have been an early influence on the development of Rosicrucianism, and there is an AMORC chapter in Austin, one of six in Texas. The Alchemy Website features a 1990 article from The Hermetic Journal about Sendivogious, which notes that the alchemist kept a low profile but was included under an anonymous pseudonym in several books lauding the most important alchemists.

I share the following excerpt for the line in the poem that is bolded. It corresponds to a shot in the film of the character’s key ring. The set is so small and carefully curated, it feels like most of the items in the tiny space must have some significance to the plot. Opposite a key decorated with a bald eagle and flag is a pendant featuring a rainbow-colored (LGBTQ+ / photonics) representation of Saturn within a “gold” (alchemy) frame with embossed flowers (roses?). I’ve noticed recently that phrase “human flourishing” is coming to prominence in digital narratives. I sense there is a symbolic connection between “flourish” and “flowers? “The roots of the word “flourish” come from the old French, “florir,” which means “to bloom.”

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 14 minutes

Also, Saturn is a key feature in the work of Brandon Wallace’s Austin-based Plan Systems. See the image below taken from the company’s home page. The ringed planet shows up often in the digital media associated with their projects.

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Wallace, holder of a top security clearance in information warfare with expertise in immersive digital media and sound design, is working to create solarpunk, peer-to-peer tech infrastructure for spatial computing in the open metaverse. Wallace was a speaker at Derrick Broze’s Greater Reset 3 in the spring of 2022. Remember, “Masking Threshold” premiered in Austin in 2021 and Wallace’s unique professional background in signals intelligence, sound, and art is closely aligned to the plot of the movie.

The definition of a masking threshold is the point at which introduction of a new sound stops a person’s ability to hear the first sound. When two sounds are present, one side of the threshold allows you to hear both, but once that line is crossed, only the more powerful signal is heard. The concept of “White Noise” is related to masking thresholds, and of course Don DeLillo’s book turned film, including insider references to simulations and toxic airborne events, mirrored the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment this past February. It is interesting to consider that digital media is conveyed through waves and modulation and mixing, or heterodyning, of waves and the information they carry, could ultimately affect the way people perceive the world around them. That is the dilemma at the center of Grenzfurthner’s film.

“The greatest tribute paid to Sendivogius by his contemporaries was the publication of Symbola aureae mensae duodecim nationum by Maier (Frankfurt 1617) in which the teachings of twelve greatest alchemical adepts were discussed. This “chain” of wisdom starts with Hermes Trismegistos and ends with “Sarmata Anonymus” also called “Heliocantharus Borealis” who is none other but Michael Sendivogius (Poland was styled Sarmatia just as England was Albion). The fact that Maier did not reveal his name, though he obviously knew him, suggests that Sendivogius asked him not to do that. Such behaviour conforms with his request in De Lapide Philosophorum quoted above and his Society of Unknown Philosophers, while in the preface to the Treatise on Sulphur (published in Cologne in 1616) he says to the reader: “But you may be sure that no necessity is laid upon me to write at all, and that if I have come forward it is only out of love to you, having no expectation of personal profit, and no desire for empty glory, for which reason I here refrain, as I have before done, from revealing my identity to the public” [32]. With my limited knowledge of Latin, I was not able to read the monumental work of Maier to find out what he says about Sendivogius, and J.B. Craven’s short summary is of no help here. Roman Bugaj tells us only that he was enthusiastic and said that he had seen a transmutation performed by the Polish alchemist “with his own eyes”.

The symbolic engraving of Sendivogius in the text of Symbola aureae mensae, showing him in the traditional dress of a Polish nobleman, was again used by Daniel Stolcius, a disciple of Maier in Prague, in his Viridarium Chymicum of 1624 (and once again, this time without the other eleven engravings, as the frontispiece in the Maier’s posthumously published Subtilis Allegoria). Stolcius’s poem accompanying it was:

Michael Sendivogius, a Pole

Though this name in the past has been kept in oblivion, its praise now penetrates the darkness, as it ought to be, indeed.

Prague in Bohemia has well acknowledged his works. He has written twelve books and taught accordingly.

He said: Saturn himself must water the Earth if it, dear sun and moon, shall bear your beautiful flowers. [33]

The alchemist’s name was revealed for the first time in 1613 when his three works under the collective title Tripus Chymicus Sendivogianus were published in Strasbourg but this must have been suppressed by Sendivogius himself, as other editions of his treatises in the following years continued to be anonymous until the second printing of the same in 1621, and the final disclosure in the 1624 Erfurt edition of Michaelis Sendivogi Poloni Lumen Chymicum Novum with a commentary by Johann Ortelius which was later severely criticised in the third Strasbourg edition of Tripus Chymicus in 1628, probably as a reaction of Sendivogius himself.” Source

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The entire film takes place within the confines of a small, increasingly squalid room in the protagonist’s home. Though it’s supposed to be Orlando, the set was built in Austria. The main character, whose name we are not given, is emotionally alienated from society and becomes increasingly physically isolated, too, as he soundproofs his messy haven. He doesn’t go out to shop for food but subsists on soylent powder. The plot line mentions his skepticism that God exists, and clippings for the Archdiocese of Florida are shown on the walls. He reminisces about earlier days when he had a social life that mainly involved tech-related projects like building robots.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 11 minutes

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 13 minutes

Part of the character’s backstory is that he’s gay. The Orlando Pulse mass shooting is brought up, including “Pulse” being associated with a life force that echoes his thoughts about cellular communication. This reminds me of Michael Levin’s work on electrical communication in the body that happens outside the neurons and how that connects to morphogenesis. The film grows more bloody as it progresses and at one point the protagonist speaking of his frustration of not being able to understand the cellular language and wondering if they are “planning something” tightly grasps a knife and draws it across his palm, creating a pulsing slash that he later sews up with coarse black thread. 

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 14 minutes

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 1 hour 17 minutes

Listen to the clip below I made from Michael Levin’s talk with Lex Friedman on the “magic” of gap junctions and their theoretical potential for use in mind melds. Levin’s area of expertise is bio-electrical communication outside neural networks in the body. He asserts that every part of our body communicates electrically, only non-neural communication happens at a much slower TIME SCALE and in anatomical space. The image below it links to a paper Levin co-authored on ancient bioelectrical communication pathways.

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Increasingly I see “community currencies” of the type Grenzfurthner’s associate Grigg has been promoting as signal coordinating mechanism at a population level that are equivalent to cell signals used in creation of tissues and organs in the body. The main character notes that human bodies evolved to exclude lots of stimuli, because otherwise being in a world bombarded by sensory information would become unbearable, and that he must have accidentally tapped into a region that was normally off limits, to terrible effect.

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While many reviews of the film were favorable, the ones I read were rather superficial. The reviewers generally wrote the character off as a demented, obsessed, narcissistic, broken conspiracy theorist who had lost touch with reality by focusing so closely on his symptoms. I did not see anyone bring up the history of psychoacoustics as it might pertain to the plot. This is something I’ve been very interested in over the past few years as I’ve come to understand the earliest days of the Internet and J.C.R. Licklider’s fascination with psychoacoustics and man-machine symbiosis, a clear forerunner of bio-digital convergence. There is also the important history around Alfred Loomis, Loomis Labs, the MIT Rad Lab, and the National Defense Research Committee. Sound waves, perception, and cognition have been an intense area of focus for the physics, military, and intelligence communities for generations. Not addressing it in reviews, makes it easier for viewers to imagine the protagonist as simply a misguided, broken human being rather than a student who may have unwittingly gotten caught up in some sort of cutting-edge experiment. 

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Symbiosis comes up as the protagonist involves himself in cultivating multicellular life in the form of mold on a sandwich and block of cheese. He then starts to riff on the wonders of lichen, their complexity and efficiency under challenging environmental conditions. The melding of alga and fungi into new forms of collaborative life as lichen, mirrors ideas being floated about bio-digital evolution where humans are gradually integrated into networks of nano-scale machines thereby creating a new species.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 49 minutes

No mention was given to the significance of choosing Orlando and University of Central Florida as the backdrop for these gruesome activities. I think both topics provide vital context given central Florida’s role in aerospace and defense research and the university’s ties to DARPA. The school has one of the leading game design programs in the country, is a leader in virtual reality, and maintains cutting edge labs in nano-technology and optics and photonics. There are even researchers involved in microelectromechanical sensors that harvest power from radar waves.

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I’m not a fan of horror films and this one had a definite Cronenbergesque body horror angle created by close ups of the protagonist’s biological functions. It took me awhile between the time I purchased it and the time I watched it. It would not have been a good idea to watch it before going on a solo camping outing, that’s for sure. I bring up the film in this post because there’s a connection to signals and communication across life and time. There’s a sense of mystery, but also profound importance of the medium and the message.

We are flowing into a future where web3 logic circuits will be functioning with biology as transistors to code life in ways that extend far beyond genetic modification. Control and communication in the animal and the machine are what they’ve been after since World War II, if not earlier. It has to do with cells and oxygen and water and electricity and biochemistry – a grammar of guidance with the aim of transforming natural life into a tool, an instrument being prepared for some unfathomable purpose. The movie was about a man who accidentally tapped into an electrical language that made him even more unsuited to navigating society than he already was.

“Masking Threshold” – timestamp 47 minutes

My four days away from home in the deep green embrace of the Laurel Highlands were the opposite. Rather than disconnect, I was seeking reconnection to non-digitally-mediated reality. I sense this trip was perhaps meant to awaken in me the idea of L’Engle’s “what might have been,” to rekindle my awareness of our birthright connection to the joyous symphony of god and nature, and to raise the possibility that regular people taking right actions in the now just might have outsize effects on the future. Ohiopyle gave me a pass to simply be and not do. I was alone. There wasn’t anyone with whom I could talk. There wasn’t anyone to consult about what to do next. I was in my own state of flow, and I tried to be open to doing the next right thing. Initially, I had thought about spending a day driving further west to Meadowcroft to set an intention at the oldest documented place of human habitation in North America; but that would have been a three-hour drive, and my intuition said stay put where you are. There is no need to do more than you are doing, even if it is only surveying the magnificent spiderwebs in a misty, morning meadow. That is enough.

What follows are some snapshots I took with captions of the lessons I thought each offered. I didn’t want to forget them, because I know there will be a lot of ups and downs as I move forward on this uncertain path. On the down days I want to remember. Listen to the old beings Robin Wall Kimmerer says, and I tried. I think I need to practice more. I have a busy mind, and its not intuitive for me to to learn with my body, my bare feet on stone and water, my gait lumbering not too elegantly up a steep ravine. I was able to pull a sliver of clear glass than had been in my foot for a month after I got home, which helped my stride a lot. Note to self – epsom salts are something to keep on hand. I trained my eyes on wispy clouds framing a Sturgeon super moon in the parking lot beyond my campsite, and my ears on the rustling of a mama robin tugging at the underbrush for nesting material, the drum of a steady cleansing rain on the top of my tent. In my discombobulated state I gratefully receive gifts, quiet ones sent my way. That first night I had time to put up my tent and prepare dinner before the rains came hard and steady. I was grateful.

So, here are some messages that came my way on this recent my trip. Maybe there will be some helpful reminders for you, too.

A change of view can give you the perspective you need to navigate the terrain better.

Beings live in different timeframes. Try shifting to river boulder / moss time when you feel anxious and out of control. The moment you are in is just a blip to a boulder.

Sometimes conditions change and you can see patterns that were invisible before. Be ready for the opportunity when it arises and appreciate it.

In any trail there will be low points, muddy points. Other people have crossed, and you can, too.

You may be a rhododendron seed or a hemlock seed that falls on rocky soil, but if you can get a grip, over time your fallen blossoms and leaves will create compost for new life. Think about that when the work you do cannot be absorbed. Maybe your task is to make the soil for the next round of life.

Oddballs can be magical – take the Sassafras that was thought to have special powers in the middle ages, because the plant has leaves with three different shapes. It’s ok to be different. Different can be special!

Nature has its own network. Decay is a built in part of the cycle. There may be a lot more going on, but because it is hidden below the surface you cannot see it. That doesn’t mean it’s not there or it doesn’t matter.

Sometimes you have to wait to harvest the sweetness.

Time will wear off your rough edges, but it may take awhile.

Sometimes what you’re dealing with is reality for you. Other times it’s a reflection projected by others. 

This topography reminded me of Conrad Waddington’s epigenetic landscapes – see the undulating little hills in the background? 

In complex systems it’s the border between order and chaos that holds most of the activity. I saw that in this meadow of bee balm edged by a forest. There were two pair of indigo bunting that graced me with their presence.

It’s scary going over the falls, but it’s a joy to stand back and admire their energetic power from below. Parts of your life will be churned up at times, but the calm pools are still there waiting for you to put your feet in or take a book onto on a sunny rock, and let the calm sound of the water soak into you until you are ready for a nap.

Keep moving, don’t get stuck or you might get squished like this amazing iridescent beetle. I didn’t squish him. 

Seasons change, and sometimes they change before we are ready.

Practice your sensing – think about how the spiders attune themselves to the vibrations of the world. It is their language.

Look for bridges and be a bridge where you can.

Hold on, be steady.

But being weepy with your feet in an abundant bed of cattails can also be beautiful if you don’t wallow too long.

Keep walking.

Have faith.

The many heart-shaped leaves in the forest are reminders that  love prevails.

PS: Stephers watched the film yesterday and shared some links with me on “noise” and the “language” of biological cell communication. The study of it is called sonocytology. It’s a real thing! See below for more insights.

Do Cells Make Noise? – Popular Science

Dying Cells Dragged Screaming Under the Microscope – Nature

Inside the Din, Cells Fight Noise with Noise – Quanta

The Rhythmic Sound of Living Cells – Interalia Magazine

How Do Our Cells Produce Sound? – Science ABC















11 thoughts on “The Far Side of the Alleghenies – Signals, Cells, Networks, and Nature

  1. Tracy Smith says:

    I love how the universe works sometimes. I had a thought about you while driving in the car. Thought to myself I hope all is well during the downtime you mentioned months ago. I found your writings early in 2020 and at that time looked so forward to your tweets. The blog does so much more, and I am so glad from time to time you stop to leave your thoughts. I like to turn to them when chaos is around either in personal or citizen life in these parts of the world. It’s been pretty heavy lately and I was listening to a song from my young, young years in the 70s and after it was over, I was processing the thought of checking in on seeing if you had posted lately. The universe came through and I am making some time in the next few days reading out in nature somewhere, yes be it through technology, but it will give way to a great time and some peace soon. Thank you so much for putting your thoughts down for others to take in.

    • I A n says:

      Amazing writing as always feeling I’m transported to those very places you have photographed so wonderfully. I’ve never seen that film that interestingly enough, was premiered in Austin…🙄😁🙋🏻‍♂️

      So nice to read a new post.
      Thank you Alison.🪻

  2. Quantum Heart Cafe says:

    Hi Alison, thank you writing this beautiful article and sharing your journey.

    I can’t remember where off the top of my head you were, but during on of the presentations Lynn, Jason and you did and you shared a photo of a magician you saw in a building when you did field work earlier this year. As I read through your article, that imagine popped up and I wonder if that magician is Sandivogious. I wonder if they brought his image over to Turtle Island, so for the purposes of their alchemy.

    I picked up a copy of Momo and so far it is a lovely book 🙂

  3. Amy Harlib says:

    Crammed with fascinating material (loved that alchemical history) and gorgeous photos!

    So glad you shared that!

    Just think upon how evil it is that the globalist predator technocrats want to destroy/digitize all that natural beauty and control it as if it were a giant mechanical device!

  4. Brek says:

    Thank you for this…all of it, even the uncomfortable bits, which you seem powerfully equipped to wade through and not end up amplifying as trauma (your account of the horror movie and then of course all the web3 predictive programming stuff, etc.).

    I want to thank you in particular for what you did at the cemetery. Even though the names on the headstones are the wrong names (and that’s pretty much all we’re going to have to go on, at this point in history, given the “victor’s” eradication of sources), your ceremony worked! I could feel it. You tapped into what survives.

    There is something so special that is created when energy and intent override inherited or leftover, previously unaddressed mess and the responsibility for it. (We’re all part of this.)

    Thank you.

  5. Juliet says:

    This is my favourite of all your posts –
    with your
    ‘How the children overcame the cloud beings ‘.

    I love this, Alison.

    Thankyou ❤️

  6. Shelby says:

    Thank you for this post, Alison. It resonates on so many levels–especially your nature photos and the wisdom garnered from your solo engagement with the land–a powerful reminder to get back out on my medicine walks after a recent move from the country to the city. I came across your work about a month or so ago when a friend shared a link to your conversation with Emily Moyer. I have been diving into your blog and YouTube channel since then, and engaging with the works of others that you have shared. So many connections are being made, and more questions are surfacing. I can’t thank you enough for all the leg work you have done (and continue to do!) to move these important conversations forward. I feel something stirring within me as a result….just not sure what it is yet. <3

  7. washington sean says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you Alison for the “ramble”… the photos, paired with your insights, reminded me of a quote “Photography is not about going to new places; but rather, it is about seeing with new eyes” But going to such magical places is surely enjoyable and refreshing isn’t it?

    Cleve Backster’s work and research came to mind while reading as well… he was the ‘interrogation specialist’ for the CIA in the 1960’s who hooked up the polygraph to plants and hypothesized much in the way of electrical communication amongst cells and organisms.

    But it was the synchronicity and sheer coincidence in this post that hit me hardest. You see, I am reading this book right now called ‘Rights Remembered’ (2016) by Pauline Hillaire. I’ve been reading it off and on for about two months. Yesterday morning I was reading her chapter about the Tulalip Indian School ( and the quote “kill the indian, save the man” was shared. Thus, I was a bit tickled when I read your post later that day and you shared your visit to Carlisle… the hair on the back of my neck stood up! Sure, I’m sure it is just another coincidence that I read the same quote TWICE in one day… I’m sure it is just another coincidence.

    Great Post. Thanks again!

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