torrential rainfall and the disputed kingdom Protista

radiolaria

It’s been raining torrentially all day- this morning we took the dogs to kelly point park, the superfund site where the metallic Columbia meets the sewage-filled Willamette, and big cold drops began to pelt us as soon as we stepped from the car. We walked along the path through the woods, throwing Emy’s ball before us. The poplar trees, huge overhead, swayed ominously in the wind from the oncoming storm, and we watched in wonder as limbs broke off, now and then, and fell in slow motion to the ground. Let’s go to the beach? I said. A tree might fall on us? But the beach was too exposed, the wind beating us like a newspaper and the rain splatting us and the lights from the grain barges on the river. Back in the forest, we watched the trees. Woo woo, they said. The air was grey with condensation. Along the trail nettles grew hopefully, taking up nuclear waste from the soil.

Now I’m in my trailer with the space heater up too high, and it’s still raining torrentially. Earlier I tried to study, laying in bed with my big floppy biology book, watching the water run in rivulets down the little trailer-window, but I fell asleep instead. Before I fell asleep I’d been trying to focus on the disputed kingdom Protista, but instead I was thinking indulgently about summertime, and houses I used to live in, and meadows I have known.

I’ve been feeling a lot of nostalgia lately. Maybe because it is the wet end of the wintertime, maybe because I have been in the city too long with only crowded backyards and superfund sites to retreat to. And it’s funny, because when you finally let a thing go, sometimes years after you first realize that you should be done with it, you never think that it will come back all draped in the soft colors of nostalgia. But that is how I feel today, tonight, about all sorts of things- and I am thinking of them longingly, here in my little driveway-house full of warmth with the rain pounding on the aluminum roof.

Where do they go, these things that happen? Our experiences, our disembodied stories? Apparently there is a compost heap in my brain where they are recycled into magic treasures, more whole then they ever actually were.

I think of North Dakota often, it is one of my muses, if I am using muse in the correct sense, if a muse can be a thing other than a person. Also my friends are muses, people I have known, mostly old friends who cannot get their shit together, who are propelled helplessly through life by their own irreconcilable contradictions, who are moved about as if by mystery. Who do not use logic. Who are painfully beautiful. Who always seem more alive than other people but also more ungrounded. Which is maybe the same thing.

And North Dakota. North Dakota from a freight train- the train goes fast, because north Dakota is wide open. The train could be said to hurtle. On both sides of the train, the soft gold grass. Bent at the tops, like an ocean. The native prairie that grew back after people fled to the cities. Just the grass and the train and above you, the glass observatory of the sky. Now and then a broken down barn, melting into the grass. A stone fence, half-finished, built from stones fished from the ground. A shiny ribbon in the prairie is a stream, flat and clear, like you could float down it on your back. Wind, and sometimes clouds, charging from the east. Lightning.

I used to do whatever I wanted. Travel all the time, move back and forth. I ate dumpstered birthday cake and slept outside under forgotten clumps of trees and that was ok, because I was young and needed nothing. I thought that everything was too fucked up to invest in anything, but then investing in nothing made me feel like I was already dead, and that made me wish that I was, and that feeling was confusing because I had no reason to want to be dead. It was like I wanted to be free so bad but then when I was free I realized that there was nothing else. Like when I was little and I would try and play the video games my brother liked so much but all I cared about was finding the edge of the world, moving my little man into all the corners of the screen to try and find some place beyond what you could see. But there’s nothing else, there’s just the tunnel or whatever, and it’s all set up for you, you’re supposed to jump and get the coin and stomp the mushroom and it’s supposed to make you feel good.

When I was younger, I never thought about what would happen. I figured that the world would just end soon so there was no point in thinking about it. The world felt old, tense, used up, on the brink of something. Everything felt so extremely precarious, like if I touched it it would fall over. It didn’t make any sense to me to put my efforts into something that would just end anyway. I didn’t know then that things that fall over build themselves up again, over and over like magic. It took me a long time to see that.

I used to not need anything- not money, not a home, not any specific food. But there’s a lot of stress in that lifestyle, and loneliness, and eventually your adrenals get worn out and you wake up one day and your body hurts and you can’t do it anymore and you need things. Or you throw yourself off a bridge, because the world hasn’t ended yet and you can’t keep bluffing.

I’ve been in Portland for a year and a half straight. I used to leave for about half of every year. Also notable- I’ve had my dog for a year and a half, I’m starting my second year of undergrad next term, and March 18th is my one-year anniversary with Seamus. I turn thirty this year, and I’m so grateful that this shit is getting easier. And it feels sweet, this nostalgia for the way I lived for so long, tonight, sitting in my trailer with the rain coming down- memories, dreams, popping up like treasures from underwater. Sometimes I feel anxiety about it- like I’ll never be able to travel again, because I won’t have the money, and my body can’t handle the way I used to travel, for free. Waking up on the freight train, sided somewhere in Minnesota, watching the dawn bleed into the sky. Shoplifting grapefruit and sardines. Spending days in a bramble thicket, reading Steinbeck. Walking for miles in the dead of night, looking for water. So many moments of feeling so alive- stacking up on top of each other, making the universe hum like an electrical current. Like it was just me and the universe. The universe moving through me, like I wasn’t even there. Have you ever felt that way? Like you can actually forget yourself enough for the universe to go about its business right in front of you. Like in any Farley Mowat book, when he’s been in his canvas tent in the snow for long enough and the wolves decide he’s just a bunch of lichen, and they start playing with each other and acting out all their wolfy dramas in front of him. Like he’s found the secret place at the edge of everything, where there’s something else that no-one knew was there.

I haven’t been working on my book for a while. I took too many credits this term, and I moved, so I haven’t had time to write. And I hate being really busy. It gives me big fluffy piles of anxiety. Too much of my brain is devoted to thinking about stuff like colors and shapes and patterns of light and very little is devoted to time management and schedule planning. So I sort of freeze up if my life gets too complicated and then I can’t do anything. I need large blocks of time to stare out the window and think about sea creatures. I need to be able to accidentally fall asleep while studying. I need to be able to be ten minutes late for everything. I may not actually be ten minutes late for everything, but I need that to be ok.

I wish I had another three month stretch to work on my book. It’s my ladder to the moon- I need it to climb out of here. But you need a really strong ladder to climb out of one way of life and into another one, and it takes a long time to build a ladder that strong. Right now I’m doing undergrad to prepare to go to school for my master’s in Chinese medicine, because that’s my other dream, besides writing. But when I look down that road I see full-time school for the next five years and then after that, working full time to pay off my student loans, and then working forever until I die. And there’s no time for writing in that anywhere.

How do you do it? How do you be an adult. How do you want things hard enough to make them real. It’s like I woke up one day and all the rules had changed. Or I woke up one day and realized where I was- in this body, on this ground, with this rain coming down everywhere. There’s no place at the edge of everything, and yet there is. And I can want both worlds, but so far, I haven’t figured out how to have them both at once. And that’s painful, but pain can be good. A motivator. Soothing, even. I feel pain, therefore I exist. This sucks and I want something else, therefore I exist. This sucks this sucks this sucks, I exist I exist I exist.

backpacking

Summer was cancelled west of the cascade mountains, so we drove east into the desert, to where ponderosa pines stood tall in the yellow sunlight and clear rivers, flat and deep, wound their way through the soft ground. But thunderstorms followed us over the hills, and we camped in a torrential downpour the first night, next to a wet, cold lake that, when seen on brighter days, is breathtaking. In the morning we waited for the rain to stop but it would not, so we drove into the town of white rock-climbers and ate strange combinations of things at the wholefoods deli. Soon the clouds thinned, and grew paler, and the water ceased to fall, and the trusty sun peeked through, beating the already beaten ground. So we drove back into the mountain, the same route that you and I once biked, now wet, and with all the snow melted. Up and up and then down and over, to a lake so large it made its own tiny waves, where we filled up our water, folded our things, and set off into the forest for good.

The evening light was pure and good, the air was cool, and the forest was rolling and deep. Flooded, broth-colored streams made their lazy way through meadows that turned out, on closer observation, to be lakes. Sunlight criss-crossed everything. We camped on a damp patch of grass next to the trail, and as soon as we stopped moving the mosquitoes, overcome with joy, attempted to suffocate us with their small, eyelash-like bodies. Panicked, we threw up the tent and tumbled inside. We made dinner in the tent (sans rain fly), and ate. Rice pasta, sea vegetables, and an expensive can of salmon. We washed the dishes and then crawled back into the tent. Mosquitoes congealed on the tent walls and whined at us, tapping themselves uselessly against the mesh. We stared out at them in silence as the forest dimmed around us. Time thickened like cold honey, and then stopped. The dogs, small and mighty, burrowed into our sleeping bags. We fell in and out of sleep.

In the morning we removed the top sections from our packs and, using the straps from Finn’s sleeping pad, fashioned shoulder bags. In the bags we put dried pears, salmon jerky, rox chox, and a salami. We wore running shoes and our brightly colored, low-tech city clothes and set out, small dogs bounding in our wake, to walk/run to a lake seven miles distant. The trail was flooded, had become bog in some sections, had turned into shapeless, ambiguous water that gathered sunlight and harbored choking clouds of ravenous mosquitoes. Downed trees, stuck all over with pointed sticks, crossed the path at awkward angles. Sunlight fell in triangles. Beautiful grasses ringed everything. We ran, leapt over logs, lifted the dogs over logs, lost the path, found it again. Suddenly, a man appeared. He wore a beard and carried an axe. He stopped us in a friendly, if aggressive manner, and pulled a wilderness permit and a pencil from his hip pouch. We filled in the scan-tron like sheet while the mosquitoes gleefully attacked our faces.

“Do you have any mosquito repellent, by chance?” Asked Finn.

“I just have a little bit. Just enough for me.” Said the forest ranger.

We handed him our permit and he took a few steps and was gone- not on the path, not to either side of it, but just gone- as if he had melted, seamlessly, back into the forest.

“Where the fuck did he go?” Asked Finn.

“I don’t know.” I said, looking out at the tangled bog, the clotted forest, the empty trail.

We climbed a few hundred feet and the forest, sandy now, wrung itself out and became dry. The trees grew tall and they rustled a little in the breeze. Then we were upon Mink Lake, sprawling and clear. It was set like a garnet into the mountaintop. We stood looking, out of breath, feeling as if we could go forever. The mosquitoes, suddenly, were absent.

There was an outcropping of rock with a camp on it, but the camp was empty. There was a tent there, two cooking pots, and a dog, but no person. A small crank radio sat in the sun. We had found two oranges on the trail, split, but not rotten, and we sat with our backs against the rock and ate them. Presently a man appeared, paddling towards us in an inflatable raft, across the great expanse of the lake. Hallooo! We called to him. He reached the rock and climbed up to us, carrying his fishing pole. He was sunburnt and smiling, and wore only a pair of swim trunks.

“Name’s John.” He said. “Dog’s name is Daisy.”

He had walked in from another direction, was staying for several days. To fish. We bothered him for a little while and then I absconded to a small stretch of beach, where I took off all my clothes and walked bravely into the water. The water was cold. I swam out until I felt as though I might hyperventilate and then I returned to the shore and lay in the sun, the dirt soft and warm beneath me. Sonny, the five-pound papillon, curled like a fox in the shade of some pine boughs. Kinnikinnick, the eight-pound chihuahua, scratched a bed in the dirt and lay sprawled, wheat-colored sides rising and falling in the sunlight.

Time passed, somehow, even in the silence, even with the sunlight golden in the cloudless sky, even with the still, clear water. We gathered up our things, our stomachs full of chocolate and salmon jerky, and began the long walk back to camp. We walked quickly, and still we could not keep ahead of the mosquitoes. Finally we had to run, bounding through the forest like antelope. Back in camp, we threw ourselves into the stream, and let the cold water soothe us. Dinner was thick split pea soup with freeze dried vegetables and bits of salmon, and then in and out of sleep until dawn.

The last day we walked out, the sky a brilliant blue, the limbs of the trees baked white. We drove into town and ate vegetables, pork, tamales. The dogs were exhausted, sprawled like corpses in the backseat, the papillon’s paw pads raw and bloody from the walking. We ate the last of our chocolate and drove, reluctantly, west into the rain cloud. The skies clotted, the forest thickened, the ground became lush. Rain fell, splattering the windshield.

Now I am back in my apartment, my wonderful, beautiful apartment, with my noisy neighbors and the shady, forest-like dog park down the street. Kinnikinnick, exhausted, sleeps in a tight little ball on the couch, and dreams her small chihuahua dreams. Before backpacking I was doing other things, and had been away from my apartment for a month. But it feels as though I have been gone forever, for a hundred years. Now, at last, all the things that I have are falling in place around me, like debri settling after a tornado. Mornings are thrilling, days are hot and good. Magic, nature, and possibility are everywhere. Life is a huge, unpolished chunk of rose quartz, roughly the size of my heart.

spring summer everything

spring but it’s cold. But we know it’s spring because the light is out later, and then there is moonlight, the fullmoon, and it’s like the light above the river never leaves, where the trees break, over the water, between the mountains, where the sky lives, the big open part of the world, as if we are insects in a meadow deep down in the grass, unaware of the big open space above. And birds.

It’s cold in my tent but quiet now, on nights where there is no rain. I can hear only the snorting of  yearlings and the soft THUNK of their hooves as they chase each other in the wild strawberries, or run from an unseen evil, a cougar-shaped shadow. There are not very many cougars, and the deer are safe from very nearly everything else. No hunters come here, there are no roads, no cars to take them out at the knees. No cars to take me out. I do not ride a bicycle in the woods. There is no way to die, here. I will live forever.

We will live forever! I asked the trees about it. They told me that no-one dies, a blessing and a curse. We hiked in the woods for a hundred days, sat in the damp moss, got stoned and ate beef jerky, until we couldn’t feel the cold anymore. While I fucked you you looked up at the trees above you, the cedar boughs against the sky. You said you liked it more than anything. Fucking in the woods is like swimming naked, opening yourself up and letting nature get in every little part of you.

I don’t have time to write but I wish I had time to write. I lay in bed in the minutes before sleeping, in the dark, and start to write, but it is too cold to get up or I have no electricity or both or my body says sleep, sleep, because writing comes later, in another life, not this woods life, where I repeat phrases slowly, in my head, to try and remember them, but they are always gone, and in the morning I drink my mug of chickpea miso in the outdoor kitchen and look out at the damp forest that holds dark like a body holds heat, and my mind is empty. Or happy. My mind is happy. Still I try and remember things. Something about our worlds not being congruent. I live in a deep woods and there are hardly any flowering plants, and the rain pools in a million tiny places and the floor is not dirt but a network of tree roots, mycelium, moss, decaying leaves, and bug poop, stronger than anything, and living. It breathes, you can hear it breathe. You can feel it breathe, leaning against a doug-fir in a gentle wind. The world is rocking, did you know? The world is rocking us. It wants us to be soothed. We cut it down to the ground and burn it to ashes, and then there is no-one to soothe us. And you! You live in a world stuffed with flowers and humid, exotic shrubbery. And your people are plagued with allergies. And the floor is concrete. And there is nowhere for the water to go, except against the glass, and into the river, and to the sea. And dark and silence were driven out long ago, to the edges of everything, by the airport, with the coyotes. The dark and the silence and the coyotes live in the tall grass, out on the edge of everything. The sit together, and watch the lights along the Columbia. They think of metal skiffs and the open sea, and lanterns on long poles. They think of fog. They tell themselves old stories. They tell themselves the oldest stories. They wait. They have more patience than anyone.

I think it’s getting warmer. I think summer is coming for sure. I have patience. I have energy. My body functions. I am alive, and I even feel it. I bought a pair of birkenstocks online to bring summer on faster, but they were too big and summer hasn’t come. Just the long wet end of the rainy season, that goes on and on and on. And the books in my tent gather damp, and rain beats on everything. I want it to be so hot the mud paths turn to dust, and my tshirts fade in the bright UV light. I want to turn brown. I want to jump in the river in all of my clothes.

I want to name the deer- I want to recognize them by face. I want to sleep with them in the meadow sometime, my fists filled with grass.

comfort

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simon Weil says simply, “Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.””

-Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Readers! I imagine you have almost all gone by now. I am working full time until september, I do not have time to write. It is kitchen work, which suits me. I chop alot of things. It’s in the woods. There is solitude, for better or worse. Summer has been slow coming, and that frustrates me. I’m afraid I’ll miss everything. I make minimum wage. I read stacks of books. I walk in the woods alot. Life does not seem hard or easy. This season is not for asking questions- it is for trading labor for capital, and for acceptance. I accept that I do not have time to write. I accept that capitalism exists. I accept it all. I accept I accept I accept.

why I’ve barely been posting

Readers! I’ve barely been posting here. It’s not because I haven’t been writing- I’m working so hard on my other writing project, it uses up all of my writing energy, and then I don’t ever think to blog! Life is steady and I am Taking Care Of Business, and I am having lots of thoughts and feelings etc., I am just not making them into nice writingz to post here, instead I am diverting them into this massive project that feels sort of beyond me, like I am too small for it, and maybe I will make a fool of myself? But that’s ok because I am young, and so history will forgive me, and then in my fifties I will actually write the thing that I am meaning to write.

I’m back in Portland and it’s rainy! Rain rain rain! This is the hardest part of the whole rainy season. This is the time of year when everyone realizes that the first reliably sunny day of the year is the FIFTH OF JULY. And the people are floundering around, having a hard time about it. I get to go to the woods for a while this month and that will be nice. In the woods the rain falls on moss and the air smells wonderful and the ecology makes sense. In the city the rain does not make sense. The city is a rock desert cluttered with dead trees chopped up into boards. There are humans there, it is their job to keep the dead trees from decomposing. The rain is confused- it beats harder and harder- why won’t these dead trees decompose? If they would just decompose, the moss and stuff could return, and then new trees could grow, and everything would be proper again! But it’s all for naught because the humans want to live in the dead trees, even though the old boards get moldy and musty and the rain just runs into the sewers. What a world we live in!

The woods! I do like the woods. I like to put my palms against old cedar trees and ask them really tough questions, like what is 6,435 x 11,957. They just say profound things, like the answer is infinity. Maybe this time I’ll ask them how to do character development for my book, and what the point of the story is. Because I don’t know!

In these days of sporadic posting, dear reader, it might behoove you to subscribe to this blog via email. See the upper right-hand corner of the page! Then you won’t have to check back and be disappointed, forever and ever.

And I do thank you for your steadfast readership! It means alot to me to be able to put my writing out here for anyone to see, and have people like it. A whole lot!

an update

Here I am, back in Portland. I was just in the woods for a few days, doing a working interview at the local hot-springs resort. It’s dark in the woods, and rainy. I ate a lot of gluten-free walnut bread and in my off-time worked my way through the Little House on the Prairie box set. At this moment in time I seem to like those books more than nearly anything. The clean rhythm of the story hypnotizes me. Pa is always going to town, the sky is always darkening with grasshoppers or prairie fire or blizzards, and everything is always going wrong. But then no-one is hurt, only a little soot covered, and “all’s well that ends well.” Pa plays his fiddle and Ma is gentle and reasonable. There might be a bolt of calico, if the wheat crop does well. The sun is always shining.

Right now I’m tired. C and I just spent a long time at the store buying food for the month in Idaho at the residency, and it made me feel a bit like I was setting out on a covered wagon trip. We leave early in the morning, to drive ten hours north then south then north again, around big forests where no roads go through, to the place where our rooms are, bare and warm and waiting, without a thing in them to pull us away from our art. I cannot wait. I cannot wait!

I’m going to Idaho! I’ve raised nearly $200 for my trip, and it’s awesome. Thanks to everyone who donated. This opportunity is not one that comes along often, or really at all. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. Me and my brain, alone in rural Idaho. An unformed mass of time. Clear cold sunlight. Many pounds of black beans. I can’t wait!

I’ll tell you all about it, dear reader. Thanks for your support in my endeavors!

at this late hour

I am awake. Is it because I am a hedonist? Is it because I am in love? Is it because I want to live forever?

Is it because I have become addicted, in the last 48 hours, to facebook scrabble?

No, my love has gone to bed on her turn, stuffed up with a headcold. So it can’t be that.

I have not been writing much blog this month. I have been doing other things! Like applying for jobs, applying for school, applying for financial aid, and making zines- all of which involve frying my brain on the computer, or, as I call it now, the “scrabble box”. Three weeks ago I hated scrabble. HATED it. Now I am learning (and somewhat compulsively) to play like a champ from Corinne the sneaky scrabble master, who has no respect for “real words”, aka English words that you and I, as native English speakers, would know the meanings of. And it has enriched me. Just in the last two days I have learned that Qi, En, Ai, Nixe, Kor, Hights and Rato are all words. What more useful information is that? The interesting things is that I do not know what any of these words MEAN, only that they EXIST. What would we do if civilization were to crumble, and the only building left standing was the one that housed the unsold scrabble dictionaries? Our language would evolve into a dialectic of obscure scrabble words. Oh Rato, you exist! Somewhere out in the universe, you are! Unknown word! Rare, previously unknown combination of letters! I will forge strange sentences from you. Nixe! Kor! Hights! Ai! Ai! Ai!

Some plausible definitions-

Kor- ventral muscles.

Hights- manic nights.

Rato- gluten-free ravioli, made from rice pasta. more delicious than its wheaty cousin. traditionally stuffed with sheep’s cheese and zucchini.

What about Nixe? I cannot think of anything for that one. Ideas? I am going to sleep. I have more zines to make in the morning, because you have bought them all. I love you! I do not even know you. Thank you!

And if you are in the mood for imagining more, at this late hour, there is this site, which was brought to my attention by a reader, and is beautiful and inspiring and uncomplicated. And maintained by a young man who sailed to the Dominican Republic with some friends of mine, in a derelict yacht, and made a little documentary about it, which you can see on the site. Fantasy travel! To build a boat and sail! To where? I do not even like the ocean. I get seasick. And then there is the issue of gravity.

To bed!

list

I have a list, taped to the wall next to my desk. I suppose I should blog, instead of doing any of the things on my list. Because all of those things represent someway I can climb out of this life I live in, this plane of existence I have grown weary of, that I have trampled with my footprints, that I have exhausted, that I have outgrown, staring out the window at the rain, staring out the window at the rain is all I have done, and still I have outgrown it. There are places to go! But at the end of the day, still, this blog is all I have. At the end of the day, this blog is what is familiar. At the end of the day, this is all I have to show for myself. And I am faithful to it. And I don’t want to lose any readers. So I write this blog, first, before anything else today.