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.

Rat Poison: Not For Dogs

NOT FOR DOGS

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged here, and lately I’ve been thinking about doing other things, like either writing and pretending I’ll post on my blog but then not actually posting, or starting another, actually anonymous blog, where I can be embarrassingly overly-personal without falling into the labyrinthine hall of mirrors which is real-time real-name internet memoir-writing.

But then, I thought, Fuck It! What are blogs for?

And the answer to that is, we don’t know. They’re new and we’re not actually sure, yet, what they’re for.

But fuck it anyway! I am going to write here and pretend that no-one knows who I am or anything about me, so that my sentences will not come bouncing back at me in my own head, as I imagine people I know reading them, and make me cringe, suddenly, in self-consciousness, while selecting a bag of frozen peas from the freezer case at New Seasons. (They’re on sale!)

And in those remaining moments of withering doubt, when I wonder how I could possibly be self-centered enough to continue writing about myself without absolutely dying of shame, I’ll just go read Allie Brosh’s blog, because she is my current, and sudden, hero, and the fact that she writes a blog makes the internet (and world!) a much richer place.

Another reason that memoirish writing is so difficult is that, in order to be completely vulnerable in writing about oneself, one must be honest about the gross incongruities and inconsistencies in one’s character. Basically, one must be honest with oneself (and the world!) about being an ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL FREAK. This is a thick wall to claw one’s way through with just one’s fingernails, but on the other side- enlightenment! Because, as it turns out, WE’RE ALL FREAKS. Some examples-

WAYS THAT I AM A FREAK

Most of the time, it is extremely difficult for me to focus on anything for more than five minutes at a time. But sometimes I can focus extremely well for a good chunk of time, to the point of obsession, and these spells, while unpredictable and impossible to plan around, are very prolific. In any case, if I try and focus for longer than I feel capable, I either a) fall asleep or b) start surreptitiously picking at myself.

I am completely and totally obsessed with what I eat, and what it might be doing inside of my body. I am thinking about this every moment that I am awake, and sometimes when I am asleep as well. When I was younger, this obsession took the form of an eating disorder- I wanted to be impossibly thin, and would count and re-count the calories in every bite of food I took. Now I just think about whether or not things might be poisoning me, or feeding my candida, or making me tired, or contributing to some strange, inexplicable chronic illness that I seem to be manifesting for myself the way a snail builds a shell out of calcium from its own body.

Sometimes I get so grumpy I can’t be around other humans at all, and I even feel resentful of my dog. A sort of dull paranoia envelopes me, and I become overly critical of every social interaction and living creature, and fantasize of driving everyone (fools!) away until I am completely alone, safe in my apartment. This resentment of others leads, ultimately, to total disgust in myself, at which point I break down, cry, feel vulnerable and sad, and am released (sometimes weeks later!) from my delusions of non-interconnectedness with every other form of life.

I have a lot of difficulty making long-term bonds with other people. I bond with people super intensely, and then I just sort of drift away. I can never understand, afterwards, why they might feel abandoned, and I am baffled at other peoples’ ability to “keep in touch”. This is, I have read, a common result of physically abusive, neglectful childhoods where children were seldom, if ever, given love.

Sometimes, in order to connect with another human when I am finding it difficult, in the moment, to do so, I imagine that they are a cuddly forest animal, like a koala.

I have a hard time conceptualizing linear time, and as a result, the future. I truly believe that western civilization will suffer a massive implosion sometime in the next twenty years, and this makes it hard to do things like write a book (who will publish it?) or conceptualize student loan debt (I will never have to pay my loans!) or to think about buying a house/having a career/raising children (WTF??!!). I also have a hard time making plans for NEXT WEEK, like calling people and asking them if they want to hang out. (Embarrassingly, the people I see the most have always been the ones who are willing to do the work of hounding me.) This attitude towards life does, however, make it super-easy for me to be present in the moment (Colors! Shapes! Textures!) and to take risks (Student loans! Dental neglect! Procrastination!).

OTHER THINGS ABOUT ME THAT YOU MAY HAVE NOT KNOWN

-I dream about the ocean almost every night. Last night, while doped up on Nyquil (I have a cold!) I dreamt that I was swimming across the ocean with my dog, a little chihuahua. She kept wanting to sink, cause she thought she could breathe underwater, and I had to hold her above the surface while I swam.

THAT’S NOT VERY INTERESTING.

Peoples’ dreams are never very interesting, unless you dream about castles made out of glittering purple crystals and epic quests across the arctic ice-pack.

-I am very interested in the arctic.

-In my imagination I am an expert raft-builder, I carry a quiver of arrows on my back, and I sleep each night in clumps of birch trees on the outskirts of small, eccentric villages.

-I wrote half a book in the spring, but then summer came and I stopped.

-I hate western medicine professionals, and this dark energy pulls unfortunate medical events towards me like a cosmic magnet. For example, my dog recently ate rat poison and the vet gave me the (very simple) antidote, Vitamin K. Unfortunately, he only gave me 8 days’ worth, and the required dose is THIRTY DAYS. As a result, four days post-finishing the antidote- Kinnikinnick is huddled, shaking, under my boyfriend’s back deck, and she will not respond to her name. Inside, my boyfriend is having his birthday party. I crawl under the deck and drag Kinnikinnick out by her cold little limbs. Her gums, normally pink, are a ghostly grey. (A definite sign, says the internet, of internal bleeding. Rodenticides work by causing internal bleeding.) Paula drives me to the emergency vet. Her heartbeat, says the vet, is very slow. He does some blood tests- her blood cannot clot, and her liver cells are “exploding”. Ono! I think. My small friend is going to die!! But she is hospitalized overnight, given IV fluids and lots of vitamin K, and the next day she begins to recover.

The original vet, the one who gave us the first batch of antidote, was a nice, avuncular man. He seemed competent and experienced. And rodenticide poisonings are common as rain. Why, then, did this happen?

BECAUSE I SECRETLY HATED HIM.

And so I manifested his awful, and incredibly stupid, mistake.

I not only distrust western medicine professionals, I am terrified of them. They seem so strange, checked-out, and zombie-like to me, with their battered little merck manuals in their shirt-pockets. They speak in convoluted, circular riddles, interrupt you, and become insulted if you demonstrate the powers of critical thought. And they always seem intoxicated to me, like they abuse prescription drugs and/or nitrous, or like too much mercury vapor has crossed their blood-brain barrier (dentists). I have not, at this point in my life, found a western medicine professional that I felt that I could communicate with, about even the most basic of concepts, without great effort.

My acupuncturist, on the other hand, I trust very much. She is a magical intuitive healer being, and she listens very closely, in lots of ways, and is like a conduit of information from the very center of the universe. It’s too bad that she doesn’t make as much money a doctor. However, post-industrial collapse, that won’t matter very much, and she will have the more useful skill.

My eyes have grown too weepy, now, from the sinus infection in my face, and I have to stop writing. But expect some more overly-personal, un-self-conscious posts (I can’t seeeeeeee you!) in the near future. Maybe even regularly!!!

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.

light bulbs, chihuahuas, and writing about myself

My new apartment is two square rooms, a yellow kitchen counter, and the hum of the fridge. It is the click-click of the baseboard heaters and the cold blue light of the stark-white walls. I have not hung artwork yet. I just moved yesterday from a one-room cottage with a woodstove to this land of carpet, neighbors, and window blinds. But I had to share a kitchen when I lived in the cottage and I don’t want to share a kitchen anymore. I have some money and I want to live alone. I have never lived alone in Portland. I have lived alone in plastic, drafty yurts, I have lived alone in dark cabins made of logs. I have slept alone beneath mosquito netting in a camper van, I have lived alone in a two-person tent that I pitched, surreptitiously, in a patch of woods next to the highway, while I waited for salmon season to start. I have lived alone on the freight train, and always I have lived alone in the copse of trees on the outskirts of town, lying on my back on my foam sleeping pad, watching the birch leaves flip like coins in the wind. But I have not lived alone in Portland and now here I am, in the City, in my very own Apartment. I must be grown up, or I must be anti-social. I am highly efficient, or I am a capitalist tool, unwilling to do the work it takes to share space with others, and so ultimately responsible for the current breakdown of human community, and all of our resulting cultural alienation and existential despair.

In my apartment, now, there are No Distractions To Keep Me From Writing, and it is raining heavily, so even my dog needs nothing. She is a chihuahua, from the desert, and she does not like the rain. If I try and walk her when there is water falling from the sky she will turn, face home, and plant her feet. Sometimes if I stand motionless, the leash taught, and wait a long moment, her peanut brain will reset and she’ll forget why she’s pulling so hard. She’ll trot merrily for another half-block, before she remembers, again, that she doesn’t like the rain.

Today it is raining and dark, I am tired, and I do not know what I need. I am tired today of my small dinners, my cabbage-and-onion browned in a cast iron skillet, my half-a-lemon, my leftover-chicken. I am tired of reading periodicals and watching the rain in the courtyard. I am weary of the way I overthink my relationship with my dog, the way I look at her and try to puzzle out her emotions, the way I project my own negative feelings onto her (Kinnikinnick doesn’t love me, Kinnikinnick thinks that I am a failure) in a way that I do not do with any human relationship.

I am Tired, I have Fatigue, I cannot Concentrate, and so instead of working on my novel here I am, writing about myself, which is what I specialize in anyway, since it is what I have done the most.

Yesterday I was at Fred Meyer buying a can opener and I found myself lingering in the light bulb aisle, picking up the long fluorescent tubes that said things like “sunshine!” and “full spectrum”. I’ve thought, before, about buying a full-spectrum light box, in front of which I could sit, in the mornings, until I became energized. But full-spectrum light boxes are expensive, and what with my solo apartment in the city and all the money I’m spending on healthcare each month and how much Corinne and I like to eat at Chaba Thai, I wasn’t sure that I could afford it. Then, in Fred Meyer, I saw that you could buy the “full spectrum” tubes individually, and that they were the same price as any other florescent bulb. So theoretically I could just get a fixture and put one of these bulbs in it, and then I’d be all set to get jacked each morning on pseudo-sunlight and slowly turn my sad face upside down.

But then, I didn’t know if the ones at the hardware store were really the same as the ones in the light boxes, and I just looked on the internet and the light boxes were on sale, so I bought one.

We shall see, when it gets here, how it makes me feel. We shall see if it can replace the forest, if it can replace the drip of rain in the fir boughs, if it can replace the infinite peace that nature brings. If it can prop up my chi enough for me to write.

In the meantime, dear steadfast reader, I have a question for you- have you ever used a full-spectrum light box, and how did it make you feel. Was it as nice as cross-country skiing? Did it make you feel generous towards your chihuahua? Were you less prone to eat snack chips instead of meals? Did you feel like running in the rain?

 

rememberies, return, freedom, the long tail end of wintertime

Oh, internet! Sweet internet! It’s been so long, so much has happened, and none of it has been documented. There hasn’t been any time for that. But a few things have changed, now. They are-

-I just got a 16 thousand dollar settlement from the city of DC from a class action lawsuit from when I was arrested with a group of 400 people at a protest in 2002 against the IMF

-And so I am taking a year off of school to write.

A year! To write! I will write a thing and it might be something terrible, it might be something worthless, it might be something wonderful, but it will be long, and it will feel pleasurable to write it.

But it will not, unfortunately, be blog posts. I might post here sometimes! I do not know. It is nice to forget about the internet, to forget about facebook, to forget about blogs. Where I’m currently living the internet is only accessible via DSL cable in one awkward corner of the kitchen, and one is forced to sit in an uncomfortable chair. I’m moving into an apartment by myself (tiny house! tiny house! TINY HOUSE!) but I hope that in my new place the internet is just as difficult. It is nice to be free from it- my attention span lengthens, I am able to read entire novels.

It is the long tail end of wintertime, now, the hardest part, the final stretch that makes you want to quit, only there is nothing left to quit. And looking through my archives, I happened upon this piece I wrote when it was never-get-dark-summertime in Alaska, and I was also having a hard time. The piece is real personal and so I password protected it when I wrote it, but now I have un-password protected it, and so if you haven’t read it, now you can. I wrote this piece about the single hardest moment of that entire year, for me. Re-reading this piece I am reminded of how hard times come, and they stay, and time stops, but then, inexplicably, they go. And I am not going to say that remembering that makes me feel better, because it doesn’t. But remembering distracts me, and time passes, and maybe tomorrow, well, who knows.

HAPPILY FOREVER

Look! I wrote something!

My chemistry homework makes an appearance, as does North Dakota.

—————————–

S A D

———

It has gotten cold here, sometimes
sometimes it is not cold, but the air is filled with water like someone is misting us
like we are fragile plants that need misting
It has gotten sometimes cold but dark
dark, dark, dark
I do not know where I am
that it is so dark out
where have the trees gone? the sky? the road?
my eyes hurt from non-light
six o’clock feels like ten p.m.
I do not know what to do with this.
I have gone to the gym,
I watched TV on the elliptical trainer.
I do not like the gym.
when I was younger, I rode my bike through the dark, mist stinging my face, grimacing in pain.
I was fearless and brave.
when the ride was over I do not remember how I felt. Transcendent, like I had gone through the oracles and not been shot with laser eyes,
or just cold and wet and miserable, reminded that life is suffering.
My ears painfully red
the leather of my shoes damp
my bicycle rusted.
Now it is dark and I research light-therapy lamps on the internet
with 10,000 Kelvin bulbs
and it doesn’t make me feel any better.
I want to fold up into myself, I want to go blind. I want to find a giant puppy, eviscerate it, and climb inside for heat. I want to drop out of college and go somewhere colder but brighter, like North Dakota. I would have no friends. Friends and light frequently shift on the antique brass scales of my heart.
The country is like a periodic table, light increasing as you go east. I am the element Lithium. I am Oregon. North Dakota is a transition metal and Alaska is a noble gas. I want to go to one of the places that has not been discovered yet, Sunny Ununtrium where the ecosystems are still intact and no-one believes in science. The people who live there talk with their hands and use their voices only for singing. They live in huts thatched with palm fronds and eat coconuts and raw sea-beast. There are giant spiders. But would that really be any different than riding the lightrail downtown, bathed in fluorescent lights and off-gassing plastic? And off-gassing people, who don’t eat any vegetables, who wear too many layers and live in dark, moldy houses. These people have nothing but at least there are cats for them, cats they can feed dry kibble made from the bodies of euthanized shelter animals. Mostly euthanized pit bulls.

I want something exciting to happen. Something really big, like an explosion. Maybe the earth will crash into the sun and all of our molecular bits will dissolve into everything, heat and light and then infinite, infinite cold. I’m not sure if that is better than the park outside my school, where the pumpkin-orange of the maples clashes so well with the grey, grey, sky, and the mist that makes an infinite continuum of the sky. The sky falling down all around us, sifting down, permeating matter and dissolving the trampled leaves. There is beauty here, but there is not light. It is so still it makes me tired. I want to freeze in place on the bricks where I sit until I become a stone and can talk with the trees. We’ll look down at all the people and the bright white glass of the buildings and we won’t think anything.

I WANT


I want to bust you out of the city. I want to steal a car and drive up I-5 as fast as I can go. A nice car, a solid box, a bubble-pod, a car that smells like vinyl, nothing of the forest, a euphoric comfort machine. Stolen. What better thing to steal, than a car?

A stolen car and a suitcase full of money, to pay for all the gas. I’ll find the suitcase under some tumbled rocks on the mountain-top, underneath a giant Alaskan yellow-cedar of record diameter. A suitcase full of money and a car. The seas are filling with oil, the world is ending, who cares. This is no time to be pretending to know how to bake bread. This is no time for routine. This is no time for patience, for tolerance. This is no time to love the land of here below.

I’ll pick you up in my new car and then we can go anywhere. First, we’ll chase the sun. For moral. We’ll bust out of the rain cloud that clings to the cascade mountains and drive east into the summertime. It’s so bright out there that we’ll get suntans on our feet in the shape of flip-flops, even while driving. No more getting cheated out of summertime. No more pretending to know how to bake bread.

I never want to learn how to really bake bread. How to give an egg wash, sprinkle the loaves with seeds, mist the ovens with water to make a nice crust. I want to burn all bread loaves. Next, I want to burn all gluten-free bread loaves. I want to burn all pizzas. I want to burn the word PIZZA. As soon as I’m out of the rain cloud this feeling will pass. I’ll have my feet up on the dash, in flip-flops. Bread loaves can live. Bread loaves make a pleasing smell, sandwiches are sometimes interesting to assemble. Anything can go in them. Absolutely anything.

I’ve got you in the car with me and we’re busting out. Routine does not need us. School in the fall can Eat a Dick. Being far apart from each other is unnecessary. Missing your freckles come out, one by one, in the springtime, and seeing them only in bunches now and then, for a night or two, tears my heart apart. Now I’ve got you till the money runs out or we get sick of each other, whichever comes first. You’re wary of my plan, my stolen car, my mercurial wanderlust, but then I tell you that I’ll pay for your art school so you don’t have to spend your savings, and you feel better.

We go to North Dakota, because it is far from everything and not overdone. There’s an abandoned ranch, the grass waist-high. The wind blows ferociously, and sucks the moisture from our lips. The old house tips into the earth, but there is no mold anywhere. All the rooms are filled with light. The paint is peeling, and paint chips get in everything. I have a small gas generator for electricity. You’ve brought a good table and enough coffee to fuel a mild obsession.

All we do is fuck and work. We wake at dawn and run, without time pieces, down the pitted dirt road that goes through the grass. We can see the horizon in front of us, and I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her bareback ponies.

We run until we are exhausted, farther every day. There’s a stream to jump into, clear, with wildflowers. We bathe in the stream and then make breakfast out of things from our garden. We’ve cleared an overgrown patch of yard for our garden. It has volunteer watermelons and chicken bones in the dry soil. An old compost pile. We’ve got chickens. We eat and then I push you over into the grass and take off your clothes. We lay in the sun and bake. Then we crawl into the shade to fuck, because I am intolerant of the heat.

After fucking, we do not know what time it is. It doesn’t matter. We stumble, barefoot, into the house, leaving our breakfast dishes in the grass, and begin to work, you at your table and me at my computer. When we get hungry we eat from the big pot of food on the stove. Simple things, mung beans and brassicas and bone broth. Wild potherbs. Bacon.

When the sun sets we stop working, for we have no electric lights, and if we tried to work by oil-lamp we would go blind. The oil lamps hiss and we lay on the warm boards of the deck and watch the stars come out. I’ve got a banjo, and you’ve learned to play the thumb piano. Our hair is wild. We have no mirrors. It doesn’t matter, because we know how beautiful we are. We fuck again. All day, when we are taking breaks, moments of staring out the window at the tall grass, and the wind, we are thinking of new ways to fuck. Ways to fuck that no-one has ever done before. Fucking as improv, as spirituality, as ritual. Fucking that pushes our limits, our pain tolerance, our love for one another. Fucking that doesn’t try to be anything at all. Sometimes I read outloud to you from Little House on the Prairie while you masturbate. Sometimes I try and make myself come just by breathing and watching the clouds.

Frequently your coffee consumption keeps you from sleeping. These nights you sit up in bed and blind-contour draw my chin as seen in the moonlight. During the day you nap, and I write you love letters because I miss you, and feel my infinite smallness, all alone on the plain. I am like Ma in the dugout, when Pa has gone away to find work back east, and the blizzards will not stop coming. Only Ma was infinitely more patient than I am, because she never had the internet. Eventually you wake up, and find that I’ve taken off your clothes and tied you to the bed with some rope I’ve found in a broken-down stable. I’ve rubbed you all over with oil and placed warm stones along your spine. I’ve made constellations of your freckles with one of your shoplifted drawing pens. I’ve made you come seventeen times, in your sleep. You’ve had the strangest dreams, and you’re flushed.

Summer gets old and dried-up, and we run out of salve for our lips. We’ve eaten the twenty-pound sack of mung beans and are down to the bottom of our barrel of salt-pork. The wild pot-herbs have gone to seed and we’ve eaten all the watermelons. One day I wake up and want to read the news. You’ve been reading it on the sly for many months, and tell it to me in one long narrative there in bed, propped on your pillows, talking with your hands. I work in some magical realism to put the world back together, like an emulsifier. The seas are still filling with oil, there is still nothing I can do. The sun from the window is resting on your perfect tits, which have exploded in freckles. I pull the suitcase of money from under the bed. It’s empty. We haven’t grown sick of each other.

What to do next? Get married? There is nowhere else to run. North Dakota was the last place. You furrow your brow. You are both worried and excited by my mercurial wanderlust. Your hands are neat and square, the blue of your eyes has faded from the sun. I do not know what to do with you. Maybe I was exposed to too much lead as a child. All those peeling low-income apartment complexes. The lead weights in window dressings. Lead affects the part of the brain that determines impulsiveness, and one’s ability to learn from one’s mistakes. I flop back down on the sheets, and whine like a puppy. The sheets are thin and soft, like my grandmother’s sheets. They have small simple flowers on them. The sheets make me want to have sex, and sleep. They fill me with infinite peace, like my grandmother’s house, with its hardwood floors and chiming grandfather clock.

We don’t have money for gas, so we leave the car at the house, at the end of the long pitted dirt road. We use some of your savings to mail your art and art supplies and my computer back home, to the raincloud. Then we walk. It’s fall, and the wind blows drier than ever. I have a mason jar of water and a cucumber, and my banjo. We’re barefoot. Our jean-shorts are torn. My tye-dye shirt is faded and thin. Around my neck are rainbow freedom rings, and they glint painfully in the sun.

When we get to the small paved highway we’re so hot we almost pass out. A woman with air conditioning picks us up. She’s unhappy, so I give her my banjo. She rambles when she talks, and offers us diet sodas. You’re allergic to diet soda so to protect you I dump yours out the window when she isn’t looking. In this way you know that I love you, and that I Pay Attention. The woman is so excited by our energy that she calls her husband and breaks up with him, and then drives us to Oregon. She throws her shoes out the window, and after dropping us off in the raincloud she moves to a small beach town, and opens up a shop selling bath oils and gluten-free cinnamon rolls. She’s reached the end of her personal evolution and lives there, happily, until her death.

My problem is that I fear that I will never reach the end of my personal evolution. Back home, we both get jobs somehow, even though the world is ending and capitalism is becoming irrelevant. It feels good, to have routine. It’s much easier to pretend to know how to bake bread than to think. The wild part of me goes to sleep and I lose my suntan. The rains come back and we both have allergies. We don’t worry about what the next part will be because we both know that one day, the day will come when we won’t have to figure out the next part, that the next part will come for us, over the mountains in a tidal wave, and we’ll never have to think again.

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!