It rained today, a thunderstorm that split the sky. The sky is taller here, way up there and far a way, a sort of theater, too far away to do much harm. Not low and tight like the sky in Portland, tied to the tops of buildings and weighted down with stones.
I finished cutting meat today, cubing all those half-frozen muscles that numbed my fingers and once moved great caribou legs, a cow no less, pregnant with a fetus, who was thin, because it was the spring, and if she hadn’t gotten hit in the road there would be two caribous, now, but instead I cut her up and there was hardly meat to fill the top layer of a chest-freezer. And cooking stew, meat and good broth I made by splitting the bones with a hatchet on the back steps and cooking them in a stockpot for twenty-four hours, a splash of vinegar to leach out the calcium, until marrow floated on the top and the bones were clean. And two heads of garlic, and a bag of onions. That’s how big of a pot I made. And canning stew, hot jars in the pressure canner, a sort of nineteen-fifties magic. and tomorrow I am going to make more of it. I have infinity worth of jars, and a long weekend’s worth of time. Also, today, I walked seven miles through the woods, until my calves were stiff and sore, and I saw as many hares, ragged looking, now, with milky, zombieish eyes, which is because they have trichinosis, and you can eat them in the wintertime, when they are white, but you should never eat them once they turn brown.
And that is the end of my paragraph about eating animals. If I still have any blog readers who are vegan, I am surprised.
On my walk it was hot, I couldn’t believe how hot. I brought a glass bottle of water, a kombucha bottle I’d rinsed out, half a liter, and I drank it right away. Then the sun seemed extra bright, and the stones themselves seemed hot, and the road a little dusty, and the shade skeletal and weak. And all I have is wool socks, for some reason, so my feet were hot. First thing when I get done working next week I’m going to hitch down to Anchorage and find some sandals. Sandals and a pair of jeans I can cut off for shorts. And I’m going to buy a van!
At the apex of my walk I squatted in the moss and studied the “trees” section in my field guide, Pojar for the Boreal Forest (they have Pojar for the boreal forest!) pointing in the air. Paper Birch, I said, With The White Peeling Bark And The Sawtooth Leaves. Green Alder, With The Tiny Hard Cones. White Poplar Which Is Also Aspen And Has Leaves That Flip Like Coins. Black Poplar Which Is Also Balsam Poplar And Has Bark Like A Fir. And then as I walked back through the woods I said the trees out loud as I found them, my voice ringing with joy at the solitude, the fact that I can name the trees out loud, wave my hands, skip and spin in circles, and no-one but the hares will see me.
And then, tonight, after the rainstorm, after the canning, I sat in the dim late light in my room and read more East of Eden. And after another hour of it I have to say that I am sorely, sorely disappointed in John Steinbeck. I’ve been carrying East of Eden around with me for weeks, ever since I walked out of B&N with it in the waistband of my pants, like a precious jewel I was smuggling. I got a small, compact edition, with thin, efficient pages and margins that smelled of oldness, and newness too, and childlike wonder, and trees and earth and sky, and printing ink. I’d been carting it to work with me everyday and back, my xeroxed sudoku tucked into its pages, waiting for a clear half-hour where my mind could wander well enough to read it. And then that horrible introduction.. and it has all been downhill from there. What do I do? Do I re-read The Grapes of Wrath again, the old standby, the book he DIDN’T write after a bitter long-winded divorce which left him with a hatred for women that stained all of his characters and rendered them lifeless and one-dimensional? And by characters I mean women characters, they are people too. As are the Native people. Not just his “common man”, his cruel yet lovable hero, his philanderer with a sense of humor and a gentle touch for children and the cripples.
Dear reader! Give me book suggestions! I want to read something epic and classic, that has lots of pages, yet is sympathetic towards women. Something that covers multiple generations and a piece of land. Like 100 Years of Solitude! I liked that one so much! Do you have suggestions for me? Leave them in the box!
Look!!! Even here, there is a Pojar!
See! It says “Pojar”!!! Right on the bottom!!
17 thoughts on “infinity worth of jars and a long weekend’s worth of time”
War & Peace.
Have you read “Main Street” by Sinclair Lewis? Strong and significant women characters, subtle yet scathing class & social critique, socialist rumblings at the end. Line that’s always stuck with me: “We’re tired of deferring hope to the next generation.” And very pocketable.
Oh! And for a modern classic, “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner! Which is all about the West, and fascinating and beautiful and huge in its scope.
Emile Zola’s “Les Rougon Macquart” is the most epic, classic, generation-spanning literary collection I can think of. The collection includes “La Bête humaine,” which I really enjoyed as a movie but have not read. It’s not very sympathetic toward women, but Naturalist writers aren’t known for sparing anybody.
Read Samuel Delany! I am so obsessed with him – amazing science fiction – smart as fuck social politics. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and Mad Men are two of my favorites.
Hey thanks everyone! Those are awesome suggestions. I can’t wait to go to the bookstore…
My Antonia by Willa Cather is a great read…I always thought the narrator–who is a man–was really the voice of Cather and her voice sparked my heart.
The River Why, by David James Duncan
Anything written by Algernon Blackwood
All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms: David Arora
PlanetWalker by John Francisc Ph.D.
That other book by Willa Cather. It has a naturey name and is semi-autobiographical and really good, once you get past the copious use of detail and realise that people used to have wider attention spans.
o pioneers is the other willa cather one. also: the people of paper, by salvador plascendia.
ever read ‘sacajawea’? darn good i thought and really long…i’m stoked you’re gearing up to be a vandweller!
maybe wise children, by angela carter? it’s what came to mind when i thought of multi-generational epics, and it’s magical realist, too.
Have you tried the Poisonwood Bible?
I’ve read it five or six times through and it’s never soured on me. I love it that much.
One Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is one of my most beloved books ever.
“Sometimes a great notion” by Ken Kesey (who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.) You will be transformed and you will never forget the writing.
Miranda July short stories can help with your stories and the dilemma you mentioned of linear progression and endings and all that. A few of her stories are three to four pages of one moment or experience. It’s incredible.
Oh, and Jean Giono. “Joy Of Man’s Desiring.”
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