I met T-brid at the co-op in southeast. I ate a chocolate-covered pecan from the bulk bins, an energy nug, and an anemic gluten-free cookie that had unpleasant, uncooked millet in it, and which attempted to fly on the strength of its dried cherries alone. We walked to T-brid’s shack. She carried a chainsaw in one hand, an umbrella in the other. She had to pause and tell everyone she met on the street why she was carrying the chainsaw. There were a lot of people about, wearing nappy wool and unkempt hair. Southeast has its own population of people, they are not the same ones you see in northeast. They are handy and environmentally minded, they go on hikes and build cob benches in their yards. The northeast is populated with fierce hipsters who fight each other for barista jobs. Burnside keeps the two demographics separated, like the waters of a strong river.

T-brid and I walked past the brooklyn trainyard and down into the swampy, frog-infested woods of oak’s bottom. We saw two great blue herons (my grandmother! Said t-brid, as one flew out over the Willamette), a white egret, two flocks of starlings and a flock of redwing blackbirds. T-brid is a birder, she can recognize the flocks by sound. The cacophony of springtime! Clustered on the electric wires. I know it is spring. The mosquitoes have returned, the frogs, the spiders. The spiders have come home to my shack! I woke up on Tuesday with a spider bite on my left cheek, the first of the year.

We reached the eroded edge of the woods and stared at the flat water of the river, slow and steadily moving. The sky was dimming and the lights on the west hills blinked on, warm-looking homes, overly large. I told T-brid that I wished I had a wooden skiff, with oars, that I might paddle my way home. The walk had made me tired, and I didn’t want to bike. The skiff would have an oil lantern on a tall metal pole, and I would call out as I rowed, and there would be mist along the water. And in the stern of my ship would be a flag of such height that all six of the bridges would have to go up for me, on my way home, like they did for the barges. Ross Island, Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, Broadway, Steel. T-brid offered to be the lighthouse on the bank, with a tea-light in a glass lantern.

I had no boat, I biked home, in the dark. It did not rain. The hills seemed extra long. At home my housemate and I talked about what junk foods we ate as kids- whether we drank whole or skim milk, and what sugar cereal was our favorite. I fixed myself a bowl of salad, and Brussels sprouts, and leftover curry, and rice casserole that my housemate made that had zucchini in it, and sausage, and almonds. I ate too much. There was a bag of milk chocolate sitting on the table, and I ate some of that too. “I miss ice-cream,” I said to my housemate. “Bacon tries to be my best friend, and it’s good that ice-cream and I aren’t together anymore, but I miss it.” There is nothing like ice-cream. Nothing in the whole world! It makes my bones ache from missing. Instead, my housemate offered me use of her kayak, sitting in the side yard among the blackberry brambles. “It doesn’t have a rudder, tho,” she said. “so it’s kind of hard to steer.” I imagined myself paddling down the Willamette in big circles, leaning left, leaning right, my lantern swinging crazily on its long pole, my tall flag swiping starlings from the sky. My dreams have been filled with water lately, my imagination with boats. If I am to stay in Portland for forever then I see no reason why I should not get a water craft of some kind, for free somewhere. An old skiff, a canoe. I can take it to Ross Island and build a treehouse there. Or perhaps I will only imagine my boat, and the things my boat and I would do, which is almost nearly just about as good.

(also, not to be discounted, is this– perhaps the most important piece of writing on the entire web.)

9 thoughts on “Today

  1. that is an amazing website, friend. a descent of woodpeckers, a pitying of of turtledoves, a skulk of foxes, a troubling of goldfish!

    say, watercraft are good things to have. and why buy one or trade for one when you can build one?

    i used to date this dear friend of mine who lives in Homer, and she has a blog. One day she got tired of staring at the bay and having to pay large sums of money to get out on it, so she built a skin on frame boat. of course, she paid for the lumber….and it took her long time to make it, but she built her own steam-box to bend the ribs of the boat and everything, and in the end, she floats!

    if you’re interested…..

    there are no birds returning to fairbanks. they won’t be here for months. the ravens and chickadees keep chatting up the cold though. makes it seem alive. and you can hear the air move out from under their wings if they fly low overhead.

  2. Your wonderful writing was a great treat to wake up tp this morning. How is the application to the foo foo writer’s club going? You have a gift!

  3. there may be no exhaustive list of collective critters in the world. this one is missing a ROMP of otters and a MISCHIEF of mice, two of my new favorites.

    we need to find you a water-going vessel! to move among the shoals of fish, the bales of turtles, the shivers of sharks, the rookeries of seals.

  4. For the record- besides the murmuration of starlings, hedge of Great(Grandmother) Blue Herons, murl of Red-winged Blackbirds, and lone Great Egret, don’t neglect the brace of darling Common Mergansers! ..good to see you krot. riverfaring vessels soon, yes! xo

  5. Terms of venery! One of my favorite discoveries of all time… I have heard that a Staff of Employees and a Faculty of Teachers come from the same sort of historical English tradition of assigning names for collectives of critters. I have also heard that “venery” comes from a root meaning the “hunt”. Yea, and so is it written that venery further designates the pursuit of sexual pleasure. I am unsure whether there is an etymology to connect this word with, for example, venereal and Venus.

    I have also heard — though I have yet to remember — that there are different terms for collectives of animals engaged in different forms of collective action. Because these terms came from hunting way back in the days of courts and kings, there was one name, say, for a flock of birds who were still hidden in the bushes, and another for a flock flushed and on the air. (Ah, here we go: a skein of geese is only for a group on wing; whereas a gaggle is for those bound to earth.)

    Perhaps somewhat less descriptively, but still fascinating to me, the Chinese language has a similar variety of words used to refer to assemblages. A student of Chinese told me that instead of saying “some” water and “some” pickles, as hypothetical (but possibly incorrect) examples, each of those entities would, rather, have its own word to designate “an unspecified moderate quantity.” This is fascinating to me. (Ever the trusty source for founts of readily-accessible technical jargon, I have just made a search and discovered a page on Wikipedia about this phenomenon: )

    It’s entirely possible you know Moxie, but I was wondering if you have seen this schematic he put together for building your own sailboat out of plywood and other easily acquired materials, using only nonelectric hand-tools in the construction:

    With your mentions of celestial navigation, too, you may be interested in the punk guide to celestial navigation by means of a sextant:

  6. anon-

    where did you come from? your comment is amazing. I have never met Moxie, but some friends of mine went sailing with him. It seems as though the universe wants me to build a boat.

  7. Carrot-

    I’m a former Carrburrian, current resident of Seattle (even though I almost never drink coffee). I’m a friend of Eli, who sent me here. Glad to know you enjoyed my comment. I like your sense of description.

  8. Hey Carrot — I figured I’d sign a name to my posts. I’m the anon here; figured you might be interested to keep track. Cheers

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