the enchanted valley and things that do not happen

Hello!

You may have read an early draft of this story, about the Duckabush Arson of last year, from a link on a hiking website. This early draft has been posted without my permission, and actually violates my publishing agreement with Amazon, and can get me in a lot of trouble. If you’re the one who posted this link, please take it down. And if you’d like to read the final, full-length version of the story in its entirety, you can find it here-

Duckabush Fire

And thanks for reading!

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.

thanksgiving

It’s late and I can’t sleep. I got up this morning, made the stuffing for the turkey (“Eddy”, he was ultimately named), and then went back to bed, because I was grumpy and hadn’t slept well, and was being a general pain in the ass. So I had a nap in the middle of the day, and now I can’t sleep. Seamus is asleep, I can hear him snoring, my little dog is asleep on the couch next to me, beneath a blue hoodie, Emy is asleep on her dog bed- everyone is asleep but me. I ate too much pumpkin pie today, laughed too hard, shouted too much, had the most fun thanksgiving in memory. Felt so appreciative for my chosen family. Felt such a strong sense of community, the real feeling, so rare, visible only in flashes, and when you least expect it- like a white-hot light beam straight to the heart. The turkey turned out amazing, thanks to a whole team of dedicated basters, some cheesecloth, a shit-ton of butter and the steadfast guidance of the Joy of cooking. I think the stuffing was good, but I had so much food on my plate, I ate so fast, and there was so much noise, that I feel like I hardly tasted anything at all. I’d gone for a run beforehand in the rain with EmyLoo and I was starving, but then I’d eaten some candied pecans and ended up feeling like I wasn’t quite hungry enough. I remember thanksgiving dinners at my Grandparent’s house when I was a teenager, being so hungry by the time we ate that each bite of food tasted like the fucking miracle that it was, chemical reactions exploding in my mouth, winter and spring and fall and sunshine and a nostalgia for everything that could have ever happened, like tasting the whole history of the world. I never helped cook, though, and when you cook a thing and smell it all day you can hardly taste it by the time it gets eaten. I learned that working at the hippie hotsprings last summer, cooking for hours and not being able to taste anything when I put it in my mouth, having to trust that it would taste good, finally tasting it eating it cold with a spoon out of the leftovers fridge the next day, like a fucking miracle.

 

I am thankful. I am thankful for my health and my friends’ health and for my date and for our dogs. I am thankful that the heavens split open and rain down goodness and unbelievable decadence upon us again and again, like the universe is a slot machine and I keep winning and I’m shaking the machine and saying why do I keep winning? But the money just keeps pouring out, gold coins piling around my feet. Of course it’s not just winning it’s being able to know when you’ve won, and being able to say “yes, this is good enough” and then, later, realize “yes, this is as good as it gets” and then “one happy thing is every happy thing”. And there’s also giving up hope, realizing that hope is a form of capitalism, a belief in infinite growth and if there’s not that constant moving toward some other thing then you’re dead. Giving up hope you stop looking around you and you look down at your feet and you realize that you can’t even see them because they’re buried under about a foot of gold coins. And you feel so rich you don’t even want to move, barely want to breathe, because you’re afraid it’s all so fragile like a screen made of grass blades pinned together with chestnut thorns and that it’ll crumble if you look at it directly, like your gratitude is a strong wind that’ll blow it over, like how the sun can fade a photograph.

 

Over-eating pumpkin pie is one way of indirectly showing one’s gratitude towards the universe. There were three kinds of gluten-free pumpkin pie at dinner, and I ate as much as I possibly could, spacing it out all night until, in retrospect, the evening blurs together into one long taste of dull pumpkin, maple sugar and baking-soda crust, like an IV drip of pie. The best thanksgiving food, tho, will be the leftovers I make for breakfast, and the turkey sandwiches I make into infinity, thanks to Eddy the expensive (but priceless) co-op turkey.

 

I love feasting with my friends. I am thankful for so many things- but mostly I just want to catch this moment in my heart, this moment of being alive- because I am undoubtedly alive- and sometimes, still, that blows me over, even though I have been on this earth for nearly thirty years already. How is it that we are alive? Still I cannot believe it. In the great straws-draw of existence, I wonder if every single-celled or multi-cellular-complex organism doesn’t once in its life stop to wonder how they got so lucky as to be embodied in such a way, here and now, when there was so much that they missed, and so much that they will never see, how they ever got to be alive at all. And sometimes, when I stop fidgeting and stand still, I feel that time stops with me, and if I hold still enough, I feel that I can almost keep from startling it into motion again. And this always works except for when it doesn’t, and time passes but it doesn’t pass, and in the end, I always have it, even when I think I don’t.

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.

It doesn’t ever stop raining

Ever. It’s always been raining, and it will always rain. The ocean is broader and deeper than the depths of my imagination, and each day small bits of it rise up, roil through the air, and pound the edges of the continent. We are an extension of the ocean, we are the inner edges of the continental shelf. We are the pacific northwest. We are underwater.

Tonight, at sunset, the light broke through the mounded-up, blue-white clouds and lay, like orange paint, on all the west-facing surfaces. Fig trees, fence posts, wooden garage doors. A rainbow appeared, too, half-hearted, over everything. The streets sparkled in their joyous wetness, as if the world was a creek-rock that looked better wet. Then the sky clogged up and the half-hearted rain began again over the half-hearted rainbow. The light was gone- a greeting card from a better place. North Dakota, maybe, where one will predictably find a ball of retina-burning yellow unshakably aloft in the sky, but the wheat fields are too lonely, and there is too much wind.

Here, between the ocean and the mountains, there is no wind. Does the sun make the wind? Once, we drove east, to find the sun. After eighty miles the light was suddenly, blindingly bright, and looking behind us we saw the edge of the cloud, roiling in the atmosphere but not, somehow, able to make it any further. We pulled the truck off the highway, onto a narrow dirt road that wound around the hills, now bare of trees. We parked next to a gate, and began to climb. The earth was rocks, and blue grass, and small yellow sunflowers, the sky was blue and bare, and the wind beat at our faces like a rolled-up newspaper. We grinned, our hearts pounding, our lungs gasping at the clear, dry air, air from which there was no need to filter damp cobwebs of mildew and cloying, always-blooming roses. The dogs bounded ahead of us, ears flattened. As we walked upwards over the open, flowery hills the wind beat us harder, until at last we were on the top, and the earth was a sleeping woman below us. There, at the top, the wind was like a truck that bore down on us, out of the nothing, and the sun was thin and helpless. We looked at the spine of the earth, held our hands to our cold ears, and walked down again, gasping for breath.

The wind, the rain, the sun- too much, not enough. There is nothing wrong with the weather, it is our desires that cripple us. I want it to be sunny, I wish it would stop raining. Who is larger, us or the weather? Who is older? What comes from what? The ocean is larger than anything, and when my bones, from lack of vitamin D, turn to sand castles, I will be washed away with the rest of the shore, turned into something new. We have the weather inside of us- barometric pressure, the moon’s gravity, we have dreams about earthquakes, tsunamis. We are, in our hearts, like rabbits, running from the forest, anticipating fire. I will stop pretending, this June, that anything other than rain happens here, in the rain cloud, next to the ocean. I will accept the melancholy that comes with the cold, wet rain, the way it smothers my sense of urgency. I am the rainclouds, I come from the ocean. I am sleepy, there is no time. Sometimes I am the wind, expanding and contracting in space. But right now I am the rainclouds, and there is nothing that I want.

s u n d a y

Overcast, warm unless the air is moving, reading Anne Carson,
I went running in the forest, in my old running shoes, that need replacing, on the narrow dirt path, squishy with mud. Finn and I, and the small dogs, like squirrels, out of place, which would wink out of existence, immediately, if western civilization were to collapse-
at least the Papillon, the chihuahua would survive, would dig a burrow in the dusty earth, eat mice, insects, grasshoppers, chicken bones, the dried stool of other animals, buts of hair, earthworms, clods of mud, grass, birdshit, discarded hamburger buns, would survive, would procreate, would carry on for all of us.
The forest was beautiful, cool and damp in all the right ways, like a breathing animal, without urgency, an animal who does not feel excited, anxious, who is infinitely calm, an animal like a grandmother, as old as a grandmother, the world’s grandmother. I’m finally bleeding, the storm clouds have broken, my heart is a wheatfield in the sunshine. I ran and ran through the forest, high on advil and the euphoria of baseless optimism, or rather clumsily jogged, although in my imagination I am an antelope, and nik nik is a squirrel, and our spirits are birds, and we will live forever.
For breakfast afterward I had happiness, contentment, bacon, greens, brown rice, eggs scrambled with fresh herbs, and a chocolate muffin that I had baked without sugar, at first had though was awful, had frozen, and now think is particularly delicious, like flourless chocolate cake, only with coconut milk in there, and mashed bananas.
I am going to try to blog more, unless I do not. I am going to the forest for a month, (I think), unless I do not. I do not particularly believe in things happening, in the future, (or continuing to happen), but I go through the motions, so as not to seem insane, and am constantly pleasantly surprised when the earth continues to turn, the sun continues to rise, I continue to find pleasure in affection, my dog does not leave me, only snuggles closer, while I sleep, spreading herself along my ribcage, resting her small snout on my armpit, breathing her small, good-smelling dog breaths on my face.
I have no hope, but I am grateful, and I will not curse this life by declaring that anything I love will continue to exist, and I will attempt, instead, to write its creation myth, so that we can somehow understand it, without looking directly at it, like the most distant stars, which exist, and do not exist, and show us the shape and depth of space-time, everything happening all at once, all piled up, there and not there.
Life is a feral dog, and by avoiding eye contact I hope to gain its trust.

water, dreams, cupcakes, the ocean floor

My dreams have been so magnificent lately.

Picture this: It is the end of the world. The lowlands are filled with clear water. All you clothing is red. It’s warm, and someone is coming after you. You have to swim. You have to hide. You have to cross narrow trestles that glisten in the moonlight. The sky is empty and black. All the plants are green. Quickly! Someone is following you, and you’re not afraid. You’re excited. This is what you’ve been waiting for, for years. This is what you’ve been waiting for. To run, to hide.

You climb aboard a freight train. You’re bound and dumped onto a freight train. You wake up from a groggy sleep, on a freight train. The train is like no freight train you have every been on. It is a ghost freight train, dark. The only thing shining is the tracks. The cars are low and made of rough, rusted steel. The train is endless, going on forever. The train is narrow, you must hold on. The train moves slowly through the secret night. This train is going to the moon.

It’s the end of the world again. You have to swim. You’re wearing a heavy pack and you sink, but you’re a good swimmer and you reach the surface and clutch the grass, the railroad tracks. The water is cold and black like tea. Now there are sharks, and waves crashing against a steep concrete slope. You’re in the ocean. You’ve lost your small boat, in which you’d moved beneath the moon.

You wake up. It’s late. The sun is out. Corinne has also dreamt of sharks.

I love my dreams.

Here’s something I wrote a few weeks ago, but didn’t post, because I thought there wasn’t any yearning in it.
——————————————

It’s not very cold outside
and my woodstove is strong
the earth has gone wet, and black,
each year’s tragedy
we fall into mourning
for this:
the flaming leaves, the dark that hurts our eyes
wet and black
I don’t want to go anywhere, anymore. I just want to go inside myself, and other people. It feels like the time to look and see what others have been doing: wintertime.

on the internet there are images
of the Caribbean
and beneath the warm blue waters
there are gray concrete sculptures of people
ordinary people
and on their faces grows coral
the color of strawberry milkshake
and where their hair ornaments would be
are bottle-brushes of white
and from their shoulders burst turquoise plants, arrogant and brave
it is what it would look like
if history ended
it is what it would look like
if people didn’t matter
if all that mattered
was the way a woman’s nose was shaped
and the way the light looked
on the loose sand of the ocean floor

I do not much like this poem
or whatever it is that I am writing
I have no yearning, right now
I want nothing
not even chocolate cupcakes or a knee-high, snow white dog, dripping wet
that would find me in the forest, lost and enchanted
and I would take her home and we would dance around, in front of the woodstove, and then she would sleep, and I would touch her forehead gently
If I have no yearning, how can I write? I am fed, warm, have good soft lighting, sleep well. There are pleasurable things in the world- junk shops, free books, sausage, coconut soup. I am not curled under a thorn bush in Arizona, dying of loneliness, listening to the crickets, waiting for sunrise.
I cannot wait to write about all of that.

The next two days

I mostly ate the same sorts of things. My jaw hurt, the nerves like exposed rock on a mountaintop that is harried by the wind. I took the last of a bottle of vicodin leftover from when I got a tooth pulled in 2008, and then wouldn’t let myself have anymore. Without the vicodin the pain danced around in my skull like electricity, moving from one side of my jaw to the other, up into my skull where it pulsed like a flashlight. I worried about getting food stuck in the red empty socket. I checked the socket in the mirror after eating. I imagined a little piece of bread in there, a flax seed. Bumping against the raw nerves like a buoy in the sea.

I made juice to drink from beets and carrots and celery and a handful of kale from the garden. There was stuff on the top like cappuccino foam. It tasted sweet. I made a smoothie from frozen raspberries that C brought me. I made split pea soup, frying the carrots and onions in bacon grease before adding them to the pot. I made kale salad with lemon juice and olive oil. I bought gluten-free carrot flax muffins and ate them with C out in front of her school, on the sidewalk in the sunshine.

Today I was tired so I took the lightrail home instead of riding my bike up the big hill. I went to the grocery store. I talked to the man at the meat counter and he said that the “natural” bacon there comes from factory farm pigs. They just aren’t fed any antibiotics, he said. That’s what makes them different. I imagined the pigs in stalls so small they couldn’t turn around. I imagined the workers saying mean things to the pigs. I put the bacon in my cart and bought it but thought that maybe next time I wouldn’t. I got a package of raspberries and a cauliflower. The air outside was warm and bright. At home I sat in a kitchen chair in the sun and ate the raspberries. I could hear the freeway, and see the neighbor’s windows up close to the fence. Last night they had their porchlight on all night. It was so bright it was like a spotlight, throwing pale squares of light through the windows of my cottage, making my room grey and soft purple like a room in a movie where it is supposed to be night, but you can see everything. I had lain awake, wondering why they had such a bright light, if they were trying to signal something. If they had lost a ship in the harbor. If maybe no-one had told them that the harbor was gone, that a highway had been built there, a neighborhood, neighbors so close their pears fell on your roof and they could see in your windows. Today the apartment looked empty, the blinds were drawn back and the walls I could see were bare and white.

After eating in the sun I lay in bed with all my school reading on my chest and instead of reading it, I fell asleep. My jaw hurt and if my body couldn’t have opiates well then it wanted to sleep instead. It was dark when I woke and I went inside the house. Toby was there and I made some bacon to share with her. The bacon didn’t cook right and there were pieces of fat left, firm and rubbery. I packed kale salad and injera for my lunch tomorrow. C called from work and said that she had eaten three skittles, a square of fruit leather and a three by two inch rice krispy treat. She was walking her bike to the broadway bridge. It was a nice night, clear and not yet cold. It hardly feels like October the way I imagine October should feel. It feels like a clear warm in-between place, a last hurrah before the rains come.

And therein concludes a week’s record of the food I (mostly) ate.

Experiment

I am going to try and write what I eat every day

for a week

for an experiment

Today was sunny

and cold

Corinne was here for breakfast and we ate what we always do- love. We also had eggs with the yolks runny (cause corinne made them and she is good at not breaking them- I always break the yolks- after hundreds of pairs of eggs over many years I still break them- it is impatience, I think). With the eggs we had kale from the backyard (the backyard is a kale forest! a tangled jungle of kale!) that was cooked in browned onions in the cast iron and corn tortillas, three for me (softened on top of the greens) and two for corinne (made crispy in a little oil). This breakfast requires three cast iron pans. My new house has nine cast iron pans, so there are always plenty. We could melt them down and make a meteor, or a ship’s anchor.

While Corinne was making breakfast she was simultaneously making our lunch, because I was shuffling around in a fret, trying to finish my chemistry lab report that I wasn’t sure, exactly, how to do, before fifteen minutes was up and I had to get on my bike and ride to school, in the cold clear fall air, with the yellow leafs on the concrete and the wind that smells like sugar cookies. (There is a cookie ghost in our neighborhood, when the air is clear and cool it smells like sugar cookies.) For our lunch Corinne browned more onions in a pan with carrots and a little cabbage from the backyard brassica forest, and added ground beef and some risotto rice I’d made by cooking rice with some oregano and bay leaf and a square of bullion in a pot. She put this into my little lunch container for me, and sent me out the door to my bicycle and the Mississippi street hill and skool. I am in school now, my school has twenty-seven THOUSAND students and each one of them is a bright and shining individual, and they are all clamoring for education, or the bureaucratic shadow of it, and the institution is filled with alien-bright florescent light and stale blowing too hot/too cold air and everything is free/not free.

I ate my lunch in a big room with little tables and people hunched over computers and other lunches. The beef and rice tasted fantastically delicious, and I stared at the other people eating. I also ate a salad from the dining hall, young leafs in a brown to-go box with red wine vinegar and some sort of indiscriminate salad oil. I ate it mixing bites of leafs with bites of beefy rice, stabbing the leafs with my potato fork and kicking my legs happily under the table.

I met Corinne for a walk in the afternoon because she goes to school downtown too and the sun was out. We went to the expensive overpriced natural foodstore where the only thing I can afford is cooked brown rice, and Corinne got me a little container of raspberries. Berry season is waning, and I am already mourning. I love the berries. Soon I will have to break into my stash of frozen blackberries at Corinne’s house, and eat an entire pie to consol myself.

Corinne and I also shared a strange chocolate health-food bar that had sprouted buckwheat in it. We sat on the sidewalk in the sun against a building and held hands. Corinne’s eyes looked nice and faded in the sun and she has freckles in her ears.

I biked home in the good air of evening and made a manchego quesadilla before leaving to get my hair cut by Naomi. I had risotto rice and leftover pinto beans on my quesadilla. The pinto beans needed salt. Naomi cut my hair in her living room, and then showed me some shoes she’d bought on the internet. They looked like if an architect and a stripper designed doll shoes for a museum, only better. They looked like salmon could use them to get up waterfalls, if they had enough money.

After my haircut I went to the store and wandered, dazed, among all the overpriced packaged health food goods, wondering what I liked to get for groceries. I got another small package of raspberries and the staples, carrots and onions and corn tortillas and such. I also got a hanging plant called string-of-pearls at the last minute for my new cottage (which has a woodstove! and good light!) and put it in my bike pannier to carry home. At home I ate the raspberries and wrote emails and felt pleasure. I think I will go build a fire in my woodstove and read Xeroxed articles for class and feel happiness. And then sleep.

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.