OMG I’VE REACHED MY GOAL!

This morning I woke up to see that my goal had been reached for the kickstarter. This is crazy! I was so close to running out of time, and I wasn’t sure if I would make it. But then last night my friend Hannah started a cascade of pledge-doubling, a few more people found my project via kickstarter, and BAM! I woke up and it was funded! Right now the project is at $3,800, which means that even after I give kickstarter 10%, I’ll still have $3,420 for the project!

You guys this is crazy. I’m actually going to be able to do this! I feel so grateful to y’all right now that it’s actually sort of painful. I can’t wait to go on this epic journey and share it with you!!!

Thanks to everyone who has pledged or doubled their pledge since my last update– Allie, Richard, Trixie, Joel, Lacy, Susan, April, Cole, Dave, Mary P., Hannah, Kate, Maureen and Katherine!

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! This is all possible because of you!!

You know what else is awesome? I found out recently that it’s a super low snow year in the Sierras. Which means that not only do I not need an ice-axe or instep crampons, but I’ll be able to make really good time! Usually there’s quite a bit of snow in the Sierras in June and July and at least a month of the trip is spent postholing through the snow, getting lost, and attempting to navigate over passes without the trail. But this year, mysteriously, the snow is just gone. This is awesome news for my trip, but kind of worrying when you look at the bigger picture, no? It also means that there’s less water on the trail this year. But I was most worried about getting lost in the snow, so this is awesome!

You people are wonderful. Thanks so much for believing in me. I’m so excited to go on this epic journey and take you with me.

What happens next: in a few days everyone who’s pledged will get an email survey asking for your shipping info and anything else I need to fulfill your rewards. If you ordered chocolate, you’ll get that in the mail in the next two weeks. If you ordered a postcard or a letter, you’ll get that while I’m on the trail. And the ETA for the book is January 2014!

THANK YOU! 

Here’s Potato. He’s happy that my goal has been reached, but now he’s kind of sad that I’m actually leaving-

potato28

My friend Cooper is going to live in my trailer while I’m gone and hang out with my dogs. They are going to miss me, but not as much as I am going to miss them. My dogs are going to be having SO MUCH FUN this summer with Cooper that after a few weeks they’re going to be like, Carrot Who? And I am going to, like, cry every night in my tent. 😦 Being away from my dogs is definitely going to be one of the hardest parts of the trip, and I’m curious to see what that looks like. Oh, the woes of being a dog owner!

chocolate covered bacon and the meaning of the wintertime

The dry season ended, all of a sudden, and the sky became dark and wet and the air turned cold and all the leaves fell. At first I was taken aback by all of this, because I hadn’t wanted it to happen. I was feeling like a victim of the seasons, like one of those people who lives in Portland but wishes they lived somewhere else but who won’t, for whatever reason, just move. But then I cranked up the space heater and pulled out the extra blankets and got a Netflix subscription, and now my trailer is a cozy little winter den with yellow lamps blazing and chicken stock bubbling on the stove and I never want to leave it, I only want to eat pears while I watch gossip girl and stroke Kinnikinnick, whose fur has been softened by the rain and who refuses to go outside and pee again until spring.

My life currently lacks direction. I purposefully set up my life this fall in such a way that I would have plenty of time to write. As summer was winding down I registered for just a few credits, knowing that between school and my two regular money gigs, I’d have lots of downtime left over. I’ll work on my book, I thought, and then in spring I’ll set off to hike the pacific crest trail. Isn’t life grand! Except now the rain is falling torrentially, sealing me indoors like a biblical flood, and I can’t write at all.

You know, I’ve read alot of books about the writing process. Books about writing by prolific authors I do not read, and books about writing by not-so-prolific authors who I adore. I’ve even read books on writing by authors who are neither prolific nor particularly admirable. Writers say lots of nice things about writing, and that’s nice, and it feels comforting. But they can’t ever answer the one question that I have, the question that never goes away. In fact, they never even try. The question seems pretty straight forward to me, but the fact that no writer-writing-about-writing has, as far as I know, addressed it, makes me wonder if I’m a fool for even asking it in the first place. My question-

What do you do when you are trying to write but you don’t feel like writing?

This question is not– What do you do when you want to write but you’re blocked?

The question is– What do you do when you don’t want to write? Like, at all? For a really really long time?

If there was a writing god, up on a mountaintop somewhere, I would climb to the top of that mountaintop and I would walk up to them and I would shout at them-

IS WRITING OR IS WRITING NOT MAGIC?

Because if writing is magic, then it’s probably not something that you should force yourself to do when you don’t want to do it. If writing is magic, then it’s probably not even possible to do it when you don’t feel like doing it. If writing is magic, and you don’t feel like writing for a whole year, even though you’re really, really tired of having nothing to show for yourself but a bunch of rambling personal essays on the internet, then there’s probably nothing you can do, but maybe wait. And do something else, like learn to be a dog musher. Or walk across the continent.

But if writing is not magic, then you’re a fool, and not only are you a fool but you’re a lazy fool, because if you had just one speck of discipline well then you could sit yourself right down at this here computer and write and write and edit and edit and ediiiiiiiiiiiiiit and then after a number of days had passed you would have a finished manuscript and then maybe you could find someone to buy it and then you would be a writer, a real writer, and you wouldn’t even have to move to the sub-arctic to learn to be a dog musher which is fine because you didn’t really want to do that in the first place, you just wanted to be a writer.

So there is the writing god, way up on the mountain top, and there is capitalism, way down in the hollows. Between the two I’m perched in a little alpine meadow, watching the clouds roll by, tearing the petals off daisies and trying to pretend that time is not passing.

So my life has no meaning right now, seeing as I’m neither writing, working towards anything in school, having adventures, or falling in or out of love with anybody. And so in an attempt to stuff the meaning back into my life, I’ve taken up Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is like regular yoga except totally different, and that’s why the yelp reviews are so harsh. Because most people, I think, don’t like it. In regular yoga everyone is calm and the room is cool and if you need to pee you can just get up and pee. In Bikram yoga you’re not allowed to leave the room to pee but it doesn’t matter. You’re sweating so much fluid and you’re so dizzy and overheated that your bodily functions cease entirely. And the instructor stands on a mirrored podium and yells at you through a mic. LEAN back! Lean back! More back! More back! Farther back! Back! Back! BACK! Like they’re daring you to fall over. And it’s not only 105 degrees, there’s also no air circulation and it’s humid and close. It’s like if Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights was teaching you yoga in Florida in the summertime. And you weren’t allowed to open the windows.

Afterwards though I sit in the little courtyard in the rain and look at the faded prayer flags that have tangled in the trees and my sense of wellbeing shoots up to about five thousand percent. The melancholy of my stupid life actually starts to seem sort of beautiful, and as I walk the four blocks home in my sweat-drenched yoga clothes, clutching my crumpled mat, while the freezing rain falls around me, I notice how nice the rain can smell, like mushrooms and earth. And I remember when I first moved to Portland from the desert and how miraculous I thought it all was, the green and the wetness of November, the dripping conifers in the park and the steam rising off the ground. And the grey of the wet-season sky comes in so many different, subtle shades; smoke and soot and burnished steel and burning lead, each one invoking its own special flavor of melancholy. The emotional pallet of the Pacific Northwest wintertime.

So Bikram is helping me. And aside from taking up Bikram yoga, I’ve also adopted the Paleo diet, for no reason other than it’s extremely difficult to stick to, and so that takes up alot of my brain space that would otherwise be devoted to seething existential despair. Following the Paleo diet is satisfying in the way that having an eating disorder is satisfying, in that it makes you feel as though your life is under control. When I was a teenager I had an eating disorder- I’d memorized the caloric content in every food that I ate and I spent the day counting and recounting, adding things up in my head. My rules were simple- always be hungry, and eat as close to 1200 calories a day as possible, and never, ever eat more than 1800. I was super thin, and I fit perfectly into whatever I wanted to wear. My jawbone was alluringly angular, and nothing on my body folded when I moved. I was also super weak and always coming down with colds and things, constipated and riddled with allergies, not to mention always hungry. The worst part was that my boyfriend thought that this was my natural, healthy body type- he thought that this was how girls were supposed to look, and I never told him otherwise, and so I helped perpetuate his fucked up ideas of what women are supposed to be.

When I moved to Portland at nineteen and walked across the park at 22nd and Powell, feeling the damp grass soak my shoes, my eating disorder magically went away. I was making my own choices about my own life and I no longer needed it to make me feel as though I was in control. I started exercising and eating regular meals and I immediately gained about thirty pounds.

Following the Paleo diet doesn’t hurt me the way that starving myself used to hurt me, and so I feel pretty good about it. And it’s a fun challenge- kind of like that radio show where a caller presents the host with three imaginary ingredients and the host has to come up with a dinner made exclusively from those ingredients and a few random spices. I know, no-one listens to the radio anymore but I do, and it’s a real radio show. If the Paleo diet was that radio show then the caller would say, “Ok, your ingredients are Meat, Vegetables, Bacon Grease, and if you’re feeling really wild, a little bit of sweet potato or maybe a ripe plantain. What will you make?” As an addendum to my own personal version of the Paleo diet, I’ve added on as much dark chocolate (80+ percent) as I want. And of course in order to balance out all the discipline that’s required to not break down and binge on a giant bag of juanitas tortilla chips or a pot of gluten-free rice pasta, I’m allowed to watch as much Gossip Girl as I like. And play online scrabble. As much as I want.

And all of this, of course, makes me feel as though my life is under control. Under MY control. As if I can control anything. Like, I may not have the discipline to work on my manuscript, but at least I haven’t eaten any grains in a while. I may have all this writing just sitting around that just needs a bit of editing and maybe I could get it published somewhere, and here I am unable to work on it, but at least I can stand on one leg and fly forward like a bird in a really hot room without falling over or throwing up. It may be cold and raining outside, and I may be lonely, bored and directionless, but at least I have Netflix, and chocolate covered bacon. And my dogs. Who are awesome.

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!

I’ve made a zine!

Life has been so busy- I moved into a trailer, failed chemistry, and now, in this short spring break with its unending downpours, I have made a zine. As per your poll responses, I have made the zine thirty percent sex/romance/transition (secret things I feel too shy to blog about) and seventy percent parts of the book I am writing (a reckless decision, seeing as no-one else’s eyes have seen my manuscript, and it is guaranteed to be badly edited). The book is about a teenage girl who runs away from her abusive mother in Alaska and embarks on an epic quest across the wilderness, in search of her father. She has no other family and she thinks that if she can only know her father, it will finally place her, like an insect pinned to velvet, in the swirling kaleidoscope of the universe. On her journey she rides freight trains, catches fish, hitch-hikes, lies spellbound in sunbeams on the forest floor, and becomes hopelessly lost in the woods. She meets/is helped by a series of strange, magical people, and she becomes enmeshed in their dramas, until at last her fate becomes something that she can no longer control.

Do you want to read it?!!

The zine is 50 pages, and it costs ten dollars. I know, that’s a lot of money for a zine! But maybe eventually I’ll finish this book, and I’ll find a publisher who will quietly print some copies that no-one will buy, but then I’ll write another book, and that one will sell like hotcakes, and then I’ll be famous, in the way that writers are famous (which is to say not famous, but able to pay their bills on time), and then maybe this zine will be worth something? I’ll sign them, anyway, for what it’s worth. And, if you buy a zine within the next 24 hours, I’ll be able to pay my rent!

The zine is called IF YOU’RE BREATHING, YOU’RE WINNING, and to “buy” it, just click on the “donation” button on the right sidebar. I am not technically allowed to “sell” things on wordpress, and so I am “giving it away” for a “donation” of “ten dollars”. And if you give me more, like $20 or $30, I’ll know you want two and three zines, respectively. At one point in the paypal labyrinth you will have a chance to edit your mailing address, so make sure you’ve listed the right one! And then I will get an email saying you “donated”, and I will drop a little package off at the post office for you, first class mail. At you can take the zine with you when you go places, and read it when you’re out of cell-phone reception, like on the subway or at the top of Mt. Everest.

The zine is also available in bulk, if you’re interested in hoarding it.

And thanks for taking my poll re: zine content! That was really fun!!

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.

The brief wondrous life of Sonny Riccobono

It was march, and Seamus and I had just started dating. The rain clouds, while still black-grey and flinging down torrents of water, were broken, now, in moments, by patches of glorious, syrupy yellow light- the steamy northwest sun, emerging naked from its long, introspective sauna.

Seamus and I decided to go to Olympia for the weekend, with our dogs. In Olympia, two hours north and much closer to the ocean, the grass was greener and more feral, the dandelions more yellow, the sunlight more syrupy. We found the people of Olympia blinking against this new spring light, moving snail-like through the still-cool hours, and shaking mildew from their clothing. Seamus and I, overjoyed at being out of the city and so close to the large, damp forest, set up our tent in Otis’ backyard and then went to a potluck, where there were chocolate truffles made from nettles and everyone’s dogs played nicely in the grass overlooking some water that was, somehow, part of the ocean, and in which groups of people rowed small, narrow boats in unison. After the potluck we loaded the dogs into the truck- Kinnikinnick, bloated from drinking her weight in dishwater, and Emy, the calmer and more reasonable of the two- and set out to find Seamus his afternoon cup of very strong coffee.

I do not know Olympia very well, but it was on some unremarkable corner, with a small, economically depressed-looking strip-mall and maybe a law firm that was inside of an old house, that we found the dog. The dog was running down the sidewalk, and it was Seamus who spotted him first. Seamus pulled the truck next to the curb.

Get that dog, he said to me.

The dog was trotting down the sidewalk in a general sort of non-direction, somewhat frantically, but losing steam. I jumped out of the truck and walked behind him, briskly but not too fast, as if I was just walking somewhere random, as if the dog and I were just fellow pedestrians, thrown together by chance, on our joint journey towards the crosswalk of a very busy intersection. The dog continued to trot and at the corner he turned left. I followed, continuing to look straight ahead, as if his affairs were no business of mine and it was just coincidence that I, in fact, happened to be going left as well. The dog walked for half a block, slowed, and stopped. This sidewalk square, he seemed to be saying, was as good as any. I stopped next to him and picked him up. He weighed practically nothing. He was the smallest dog I had ever seen.

Back in the truck, Seamus and I had no idea what to do. It was thrilling to find a stray dog (that was in imminent danger!) but what to do next? Call the humane society? Animal control? Drive around and look for the owner? (This we did, half-heartedly, for about five minutes.) Should we put up fliers? One thing was for certain- the dog had no tags, and he looked hungry.

Let’s get him some food, I said. And a leash. I laid the dog on the front seat of the truck, between me and Seamus. A sunbeam fell on him from the open window, and his massive, marble-like brown eyes glinted wetly. He began to lick my forearm with his small, pink tongue.

HE’S SO CUTE! Said Seamus. Kinnikinnick clung, gecko-like, to the top of the front seat, and eyed the new dog suspiciously. Emy slept in the back, unalarmed. I touched the dog’s fur, looked at his small white teeth. The truth was, he wasn’t cute. Kinnikinnick was cute- small and brown and alert. Emy was cute- with her half-moon ears and good-smelling fur. This dog, however, was something else entirely- if there was a word to describe this dog, it did not exist in English.

Seamus and I had no idea what kind of dog it was.

Maybe it’s a long-haired chihuahua? The dog’s face looked kind of like Kinnikinnick’s- only more bulbous, and they were both small. But that’s where the similarities ended.

While Kinnikinnick was brown and sleek, like a little fox, there was no animal I could compare this dog to. This dog was white with patches of different colors, like a calico cat, and huge tufts of fur stuck out from his ears. His tail was long, plumed, and magnificent, and it curled, rooster-like, up over his back. I had never seen such a fancy dog. This dog was ridiculously overdone, like a like wedding cake or a catholic cathedral. Ridiculously overdone and then shrunk down really, really small. This dog was not just “cute”, this dog was a fucking Japanese animation. I ran my hands over the dog’s small body. His hair was long in some places, short in others, and on his underside it was matted with urine and what was probably poop. And beneath his fancy plumage you could feel his tiny, emaciated body, like the body of a bird. And he still had his balls- like huge brown chestnuts, lined up parallel between his back legs, as if there was no other way that they would fit on his body.
We bought a leash and a small can of dog food, and took the dog to Mae’s house.

We found this dog, we said to Mae.

No way, said Mae.

We put the dog on the floor with the food, and the dog began to eat. Not eat but snorfle, as if his face was a vacuum. Mae stood watching us, stirring almond milk into a bowl of oatmeal. Good light came through the windows and fell upon the tangles of tree branches that had been tacked in the corners. We offered the dog a small glass dish of water, and he consumed that as well.

Why is this dog so hungry? I asked.

Why is this dog so thirsty?

This dog is obviously neglected.

Feel his ribs, we said to Mae. She dutifully poked his matted fur, felt his tiny, prominent hip bones.

See his urine-covered belly, we said to Mae. She dutifully observed his stinky, tangled underside.

I Think We Should Keep This Dog, I said.

No way, said Mae. She was still eating her bowl of oatmeal.

Seamus’ eyes were glazed over in excitement.

Let’s keep the dog, said Seamus.

I took a picture of Seamus holding the dog, on the grass in front of Mae’s house.

Naomi, our friend in Portland, is a hairdresser and a fancy lady, and had been (somewhat quietly) wanting a little dog for some time, although her housemates were, at least at the moment, against it. Seamus and I had just found the best looking, most fantastical little dog ever.

I felt that this was Naomi’s dog.

I felt that Naomi’s dog had fallen from the sky. Naomi’s dog had escaped from a neglectful situation and run free, on the streets of Olympia, so that we could find it, and bring it to Naomi.

I sent Naomi the picture of Seamus with the dog.

Do you want this dog? It said.

Do you want this dog?

Seamus and I took the dog back to Otis’ house, and put him in the tent in the backyard. We hadn’t found any coffee so we climbed in as well, onto the airbed, and curled beneath the blankets for a nap. Good Olympia air moved through the mesh walls of the tent, bringing with it the smell of cedar trees, and far off was the sound of windchimes. It was cold out, still spring, but the three of us made a pocket of warmth, and I felt immensely contented.

When we woke, we couldn’t find the dog. He wasn’t between any of the blankets, or at the foot of the bed. Finally we found him, wedged beneath the airbed and the wall of the tent, in a little nest of blanket-corners. I lifted him up by his little bird-body and he blinked at me, his brown eyes watering endearingly. So easy, I thought, to lose such a little dog. He’s so tiny, you can lose him in a tent! Such a little scrap of fur, such a tiny spark of life!

What fire, I thought, as I looked into his too-big eyeballs, burns inside your tiny ribcage? What magical machinations make your existence possible? How small, your little organs?!

Back in Portland, I introduced the dog to my apartment. He immediately urinated everywhere, confirming my suspicions that he was not housetrained and had, in fact, been kept (so cruel!) in someone’s backyard. Kinnikinnick, while initially friendly, became much more guarded when she learned that all the new dog wanted to do was hump. His balls, still fastened so firmly to his undercarriage, were likely larger than his brain, and once hydrated and fed, it became apparent that he was driven by them to the exclusion of almost everything else. And Kinnikinnick, this fancy, rooster-like dog was certain, was destined to be his wife. But she, having been fixed, was firmly against this idea, and so they engaged in the elaborate small-dog acrobatics of the wrestle/hump deflection/snarly face/gremlin noises, much to the delight and entertainment of anyone who stopped by.

Naomi did some research.

“He’s a papillon,” she said.

I read the wikipedia page about papillons.

“They’re from the 13th century!” I said. “In France! Mary Antoinette had one! She clutched it as she walked to the guillotine!!

Naomi took the dog to the vet, and had him weighed. Four pounds exactly. He wasn’t just a papillon, he was a teacup papillon. He was, said the vet, a year and a half old. The vet cut off his balls. Naomi took the dog to the groomer’s, and they trimmed his matted fur. She fed the dog as much as he could eat, and he began to fill out, an ounce at a time. She named him Sonny.

As Sonny settled into Naomi’s house, with its collection of humans, its comings and goings, and its one other dog, his personality began to unfold. And, at least for the time being, he was a bit of a monster. Unhousetrained, he would poop in corners, the basement, the hallway. He would not come when called, would not respond to any sounds at all- so much so that for a time, Naomi worried that he was deaf. On a typical afternoon you would enter the living room to find him crouched, lion-like, above his rawhide bone, eyes blazing defiantly, a tiny, chain-saw like growl percolating from his insides. He would snarl and snap at the feet of strangers, and hop away like a ping-pong ball when you bent down to pick him up. He didn’t like to be held, and would wriggle like a fish in your hands when you finally caught him. He was like an optical illusion- so tiny, fluffy and kitten-like, so seemingly loveable- but on the inside, he was a maniacal sociopath- seemingly incapable of bonding with anyone.

But Naomi had patience.

Naomi didn’t have a car. Luckily, Sonny was portable. Naomi got a cute bag for him and stuffed him down into it, and carried him everywhere on her bicycle. Since he looked more like a toy than a real animal, she was able to sneak him into coffee shops, restaurants and shows. At night, in an attempt to make him cuddle, she stuffed him under the covers, but he popped out like a helium balloon and bounced to the foot of the bed where he curled up, just out of reach.

Still, Naomi had patience.

Boundaries were put into place for Sonny- no growling, no snapping, no attacking other dogs and humans. When he was being aggressive he could be flipped, using one hand, onto his tiny back, and held in place until he relaxed. He could also be picked up, at the scruff of his neck, much like the kitten that he was, and spoken to in a very authoritative voice- at which point the fight would lift off of him like mist, and his wet brown eyes would grow wet, and he might even- if you were lucky- lick your nose.


As the months went by, Sonny began, imperceptibly at first, to soften. He followed Naomi around like a wee shadow, and when she came home from work he would lift his front legs off the ground and clap his paws together like a tiny, animated toy. He would sometimes, now, allow others to pick him up, and he would even, on occasion, display something that was similar to affection. To reach this soft place in Sonny, however, to get him to do something like recline, casual-like, on your lap, as if that was no big deal, it was often necessary to wear him out physically first- and this was a challenge, as the fire that burned within him, in spite of his small size, was monstrously large.

In July I went backpacking with Kinnikinnick, Sonny, and Naomi’s partner, Finn. We picked a trail with lots of lakes, and there were such insane mosquitoes that we were forced to run, every second that we were out of the tent, to avoid being suffocated. (Exaggeration.) We didn’t want to run with our big backpacks on, so instead of carrying the packs for three days we hiked in four miles, pitched our tent, and the next day set out to jog the remainder of the trail. As long as we were running, the mosquitoes couldn’t get us, and as long as we wanted to be out of the tent, we had to be running. The night before, Sonny had been so hyper in the tent that Finn had barely been able to sleep- Sonny had thought that he was Outside, and that had made him feel Excited, and he had decided that he didn’t need to sleep, that he needed only to bounce like a flea back and forth across our sleeping bags, pawing excitedly at the nylon of the tent.

The next day we set out bright and early on our Epic Trail Run, hyper, sleepless dogs in tow. And it turned out that the trail, which passed by so many small lakes, was flooded in places, and in other places it was covered in patches of snow or blocked by fallen trees. The dogs, though, were not perturbed, and they vaulted over the puddles and slid over the snow patches like fearless, inexhaustible insects. The only humans we saw that day, on our long overland journey, were a pair of mysterious forest rangers, who would appear on the trail and then disappear, back into the foliage, as if by magic. We jogged sort of stumblingly through the forest from mid-morning to bedtime, our improvised backpacks bouncing against our shoulders, food and a water filter inside. We stopped at lakes to swim and eat chocolate and salmon jerky, and then we ran some more. Kinnikinnick and Sonny followed tirelessly along behind us, now and again darting ahead, ears up, to see what might be coming. Kinnikinnick, being the larger of the two, was able to leap, fox-like, over the fallen logs, but Sonny was too short and needed to be lifted, and he would wait, patiently, his eyes squinted softly in the forest light, for Finn to act as his hydraulic lift.

friendz

We returned to our campsite late in the evening, lowered our sore bodies into the flooded, broth-colored stream, and then put on every item of clothing we had brought so that we could crouch, for a few moments, in the thick, mosquito-filled air, and stir the gluten-free noodles in our camping pot. The mosquitoes enveloped Kinnikinnick and she bit at them, twitching and shaking her small body, but Sonny’s coat was long enough that he was impenetrable, and he watched us quietly in a rectangle of evening light, his small paws crossed contentedly. As we ate our salty noodles on the grass, the mosquitoes frantically biting at the backs of our hands, we saw that Sonny was, at last, tired. And that night he slept like the sweet, lovely little being that we had always imagined him to be- cuddled up in Finn’s sleeping bag or on top of mine, his little rooster-tail curled blanket-like around his torso, eyelids stretched peacefully over his huge, bulbous eyes. The next day we hiked the four miles out, and Sonny was so contented that he was sweet and agreeable for the rest of the trip, sleeping or letting himself be pet, squinting up at one or the other of us with his big, wet-brown eyes as if he was the most gentle dog in the world. And, when we returned to Portland, we were only admonished slightly for letting him run until his paws bled.

Sonny and Kinnikinnick, sleeping peacefully on the drive home.

As the summer waned, wee Sonny became consistently more agreeable and relaxed, and he began to bond with people more quickly, and allow himself to be captured and petted more easily. He was, as Naomi said, finally learning how to open his heart to love. He clapped his hands now for me, when he saw me, and when I lifted him up he licked my nose with his small, baloney-scented tongue. I would hold him in my two hands and bury my face in his thick, good-smelling fur, and in his small ribcage I could feel his tiny, beating heart. At first, he had been reluctant, and in time, he had grown softer. And like all wary little dogs (my own included) who are finicky and particular with their affections, when the narrow beam of Sonny’s love fell, at last, on my own heart, I was almost blinded by the caliber of its pure, uncontaminated goodness.

Two weeks ago, Sonny was attacked in a friend’s house by a larger, more aggressive dog. The attack was supposedly over a treat that had been dropped beneath the kitchen table, and in seconds it was over. Sonny died moments later, in the car on the way to the hospital. He had been in our lives for eight months.

Sonny’s death was a total shock not only to the people who had witnessed it, but to everyone who had been in Sonny’s life. Sonny, so seemingly alive, so full of fire and energy, was now, somehow, gone, blinked away, disappeared. It made no sense at all- like if you said an entire block had disappeared, or like the pacific ocean was now gone. Sonny was real. Sonny existed. Like how flowers exist, or trees exist, or rivers exist. There was the sky, the maple trees, the park, and there was Sonny. Just like how there was Kinnikinnick, and Seamus, and our friends, and school, and Emy, and our lives, our routines, our small dramas, our hopes and dreams and fears. In all of that, was Sonny. Firmly real. In the flesh. We had assimilated him into the fabric of our lives, and the tentacles of his existence were wound into the minutes and hours of our days- he was a three-dimensional object that we had manifested, running free on the streets of Olympia, and then subsumed, until there was no boundary between us and him, between our realities and his.

As yet, as quickly and bizarrely as Sonny had appeared, he was gone. I had never seen a dog like him, and there would never be one again. He had been created, the mold had been broken, and then, less than three years later, he had died. It made me question, suddenly, my assumptions about the existence of all living things- all of these animals, humans, objects that I assume to exist, that I trust to continue to exist, that I wake up each morning assuming will still exist. All of the things that I take for granted to be real, all of the trees and blades of grass, the walls of my apartment, my strange, grumpy neighbors, my small brown dog, the ground beneath my feel. All these things that feel so solidly REAL, so rooted on this side of the divide between existence and non-existence- when it seems obvious, now, that anything, at any time, could slip through to the other side, without a moment’s notice. Like a crack can open up in this current moment, this experience of reality that I assume, foolishly, to be somehow solid, and whatever is closest to the crack will just be gone.

How do you live, then, when everything you love can suddenly be gone? How do you make choices when what seems so real, today, on Sunday, can shift like loose gravel and be so different, after a period of time, as to be totally unrecognizable? How do you hold on, or not hold on, to what you love- how do you hold on and let go simultaneously, how do you stay present, constantly, in the moment, while making the assumption, still, that the sun will rise tomorrow?

Sonny did not exist, and then he did. He was not in our lives, and then he was. We did not know him, and then we loved him, we shoved some random clutter off the folding card-table of our hearts to make room for him. And there is always room, an extra corner, a few square inches of love. There is always room for everyone, there is always enough space. And then, after Sonny is gone, there is a small, Sonny-shaped hole. And the wind blows through it, and it has the feel of an old, abandoned house. And it’s lonely.

Sonny is gone, and if I learned anything at all from Sonny, it’s that we exist right now. Tomorrow, then, is anyone’s guess, but for the moment we are solidly, firmly here, so real that it’s nearly incomprehensible, so big and complex and infinite and alive that I can barely fit the idea of us into the field of vision of my heart. Because when we are real, we are almost bafflingly so- the realness of us spills out, all over everything, as if there is too much of it, an infinite amount, like there will always be enough, like we could never possibly run out. Our realness, not guaranteed to spill forward in time, spreads around us, instead, into space- shooting like energy light-rays into the worlds that we inhabit, vibrating every other physical thing in our existence on a scale of which it is impossible to comprehend.

My brain is small, and I cannot begin to understand the complexity of our realness, the size of our existence. I settle, instead, for a stumbling sort of impression, like fumbling in a dark attic, feeling objects with the palms of my hands. I tell myself that I am learning, through careful observation, the shape and texture of our universe, when in reality, by looking, I only grow more and more disoriented. I can only assume that this puzzle, like so many mysteries, is a thing that cannot be looked at or thought about directly but only felt, sort of obtusely, with the larger, blunter muscles of the heart. Not a shape but a rhythm, a feeling- not the object itself but its tangled, colored fringe.

Sonny is gone, and I’m starting to wonder if he ever existed at all. Did I make him up? What is more real, my feeling for him or his actual self? And what now? Do we let the clutter build up, until the card table is covered over again?

And what of the gaping, Sonny-shaped hole in the paper wall of reality, where the lonely breeze blows through?

Sonny was buried in forest park, in the soft, black earth beneath some big-leaf maples. It’s November and the air is cold, and rain falls nearly every day. A few weeks before Sonny’s death, Naomi had bought him a tiny, expensive jacket- shiny, black, and stuffed with down, it kept him warm as damp winter settled down upon the city. Naomi kept the jacket after his death and I know that now, in his new forest home, Sonny no longer needs it. Because the forest, crowded, tangled organism that it is, is arguably more real than nearly any city block. There is more life, more living, more movement, happening both above and below ground, in the forest, than I can possibly understand- and in this way the forest is like Sonny himself. And if it’s true that consciousness is a sort of trap, and death is freedom, then Sonny is home, his energies gone twenty-five different ways, to join the riotous cacophony of the rainforest- and he is neither cold nor alone, but sort of infinite- for as long as it lasts, and after that, will be something else-

And we love him, and we miss him, and that’s ok/is not ok, and that irreconcilable contradiction, whatever comfort that it is, will have to be enough.

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.

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.

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.