From where you’re standing, what does the world look like?

From where I’m standing, what does the world look like?

We are standing side by side in a crowded room, leaning against the wall maybe, having small talk. At a party. But where are we, really? Where are you and where am I? A brilliant friend once told me that space and time are just concepts created by our brains to help us make sense of all this data, of existence. I’ve often felt that existence was like a soup, and we are all in different parts of the soup. Today I feel like existence is a landscape; what hill are you standing on? What is the view from your hill? From my hill, this is what I see… I could try and explain it to you, and that would be interesting. But still you would be on your own hill, far from me.

It’s lonely on my hill. What is the view like from your hill? Where are you standing? We’re leaning against the wall together, in a crowded room; what do you see?

I think about this question a lot when I write. Who am I writing for? How close are they to me? How far away are they from my hill? If they were standing over there, on the edge of the forest, would they still be able to make out what I’m saying? Or would communication break down completely. How close do you need to be standing, to understand what I’m saying? Am I writing for people floating above me in hot-air balloons? Am I trying to catch the people running on the distant horizon? Am I writing for people right in front of me?

Do you ever know someone and feel like they mirror you? Like somehow they’re standing on the same hill you are, with the same view, only in some sort of parallel reality. Because no-one will ever be in exactly the same spot that you are. Even identical twins, who have identical DNA, begin to become different people in the womb. One is here in the womb, one is over there, so they become different people.

I have a friend who feels to me, right now, like a mirror. Like we are each standing on a hill, but the two hills are like transparencies layered over each other, and there we are, facing one another. And we are holding each other’s hands, and leaning away from each other, and I am looking at this person who is not me and yet it is like looking into a mirror, like looking inside of myself. Like I could be this person, like we occupy the same niche in reality. But that’s not it really; this language assumes the reality is flat in some way. But if reality was flat, how could we both exist? Since reality is like transparencies layered on top of each other here we are, looking at one another, seeing outside and yet inside of our selves.

I am at a party, I am talking. Symbolic language is just that; it is nothing. It is only as good as everything else. This means that; how do we communicate with each other? This exhausts me. I am making small talk, leaning against the wall. I do not know where the other person is, what they see, and why. I don’t know how to make myself understood. I don’t know how to communicate beauty, fear, the things that seem most important. Isn’t all of this important? If it’s not important, then what are we talking about? Is talking not about communicating? Am I always the one being naïve?

Symbolic language is a failure; what’s really going on is anybody’s guess. I’m at a party, why are you even talking to me? What is anybody even saying?

My friend who mirrors me right now somehow magically understands this in a way that is both beautifully eerie and deeply comforting. I see her, I know she exists, her view is the same as mine, does that mean that I exist too? Our transparencies are layered over each other, we can press our hands against the plastic. We can almost touch. Seeing her is like talking to someone on another planet which is nearly identical to mine. It’s rough here on earth, I say. This thing happened.

The same thing happened on my planet too, she says, only on her planet the cows are purple and the sky is green. And it feels special, like having company. And here I was all this time, thinking I was alone in the universe. But her planet is the same as mine, we can talk about it. It doesn’t really matter that the sky is green.

Am I the only one who feels alone in the universe, like this, except for these infrequent moments of companionship? I once read a piece by Miranda July where she talking about feeling like “the most alone person ever”. She had gotten married at some point, she couldn’t believe it. She kept waiting for the marriage to end so that she could go back to being “the most alone person ever”. That is how I feel, I thought. Like I am alone in a little room in my space shuttle, beeping out my morse code to the universe. Seeing the view from my hill, this dramatic and magnificent view, and frantically beeping out my little code, trying to communicate what it is that I’m seeing.

Why are we so alone, and then, sometimes, why are we not?


Reality doesn’t feel like reality anymore, at least the way you’ve always believed reality would feel- like simple goodness and sometimes dark. Instead, reality feels like television static, like electric stormclouds, like the way the water pulls back before a tsunami.

Nothing outside of you is good or bad- there is only inside of you. There is the houndstooth of your internal static, and the steel cable of spinal cord, winding tighter. Your thoughts are like the sounds that digital alarms clocks made in the nineties, when you were late for school. Your whole body feels cold.

Inside of you is a cacophony or signals- here! Here! Here! Here! They say, like needy patrons in a busy restaurant. Outside of you, in the street, the rest of the world goes by. It blares its horns and you press your palms against your face, alarmed. You can’t be bothered with that. You can’t be bothered with that, now.

You’re in a tiny soundproof room that someone has built in the basement. There’s a drumset there and you’re playing it, and the noise is good, at first, but then you stop playing it and it keeps playing itself. A haunted drumset. Terrified, you press yourself against the wall. The noise hits the walls like paintballs and then clatters to the floor. The door is locked. You’ve locked yourself in. Suddenly you don’t know where you are anymore, or how you got there.

You’re at sea. You’ve forgotten how to navigate. There isn’t any wind, and it’s the wrong time of year for seabirds. Clouds roil in over the horizon and cover the stars. All you have in your boat is your own self- you were in a larger party of boats but you became disconnected, somehow, and now you don’t know where you are. You’re not even sure what day it is. You’re looking in the bottom of the boat for oars, and you find a book. You open the book but you can’t read it, the symbols don’t make any sense. You look at the pictures but they’re only pictures. You look out at the sea, but it’s only a sea.

You’re in the city and you can’t sleep properly. You wake up after just a few hours as if for some reason, but there’s no reason. The next night, when you put yourself to bed, you lie awake, your heart beating. You realize that you’ve become afraid to go to bed. Sleeping is just another thing to fail at.

While you’re sleeping a fog descends, and when you wake up you can’t see anywhere. The fog has seeped in through the open windows and now it obscures things just a few feet from your face. You’re no longer sure what the next thing is to do. What’s the right thing to do after waking up? Should you make breakfast, or walk your dog? The clock practically shouts at you. Here! Here! Here! But you can’t see anything, because of the fog.

In the middle of the sea, you cling to your boat. It’s a small, narrow, wooden boat and you cling to it. You’re lying curled in the bottom between the wooden benches, your fingers dug into the peeling wood. Now and then you raise your head and look over the lip of the boat at the sea. Every time you do this, the sea stretches even farther. Every time you do this, you are a little more disconnected from the land.

You want to stop looking out at the sea. You wish you had a tarp to pull over your head. A bright blue tarp to block out the light. You want to live in a world of diffused moonlight and your own shallow breaths. You have never been one of those people who sleep too much, and so you’ll just breathe, and be awake, and think of nothing.

Here! Here! Here! Here! The houndsteeth of static gnaw at your consciousness, polluting reality like silt poured into a glass of water. You’re awake, you’re on the open ocean in a storm; you’re lashed to the mast of the ship. You have no idea how long you’ve been there. There’s water in your dress and hair. You’ve forgotten to count the minutes, you’ve forgotten to want anything but that the rain would stop hitting you in the face, hitting and hitting and hitting you in the face, like sharp little pins. You want the rain to stop and you want everything to just stop, and for a moment you confuse sleep with death, and night with day, and the present moment with everything. You are present, now. You are so present you can’t think of anything else. There is no way to orient yourself in relation to anything else, there are no piles of little stones to mark the path. And you don’t know this, because nobody told you, or if they did tell you you’ve forgotten, or if you heard it once then you lost it when you lost everything, into the electrical storm of the sea- but all you have to do is hold onto the mast for dear life until the storm is over, just ride it- RIDE IT! LIKE A MECHANICAL BULL OF PAIN! And the minutes will pass without you knowing them, without you thinking them, without you being anywhere but where you are, in the body of the storm, all you have to do is STAY ON THE MAST- and in the morning the wind will die, and you’ll fall, and the horizon will crack open like an egg and there will be a sunrise. And you’ll sit up, and the beauty of the sunrise will shock you, because you’ll look at it, and you’ll know that it’s new- you’ll know that something has happened, and now here’s this new thing, that never before this moment existed, not even in the thoughts of one single person. And you’ll brush the silt off your dress and look at it, on the palms of your hands, and you’ll look at the sky, and the newness of this sunrise will mute everything inside of you, the way it flickers orange on the horizon, and you’ll realize that it’s the most beautiful thing that you have ever seen.

the enchanted valley and things that do not happen


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


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.


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.

Where darkness lives

I woke up this morning thinking about my mother. I invoked her, yesterday, by talking about her, and when I woke up this morning she was there, in the room. Her spirit, her energy.

My mother exists.

It’s hard to believe that something still exists when you do not see it with your own eyes. It’s hard to know that something exists when you do not pass it on your daily walk, talk about it in casual conversation, or read about it in the newspaper. Environmental catastrophe, prisons, endemic poverty, my mother. These things could all be one and the same- my mother is environmental catastrophe, my mother is endemic poverty, my mother is in a prison built for one. My mother is second-hand cigarette smoke, yellow fingers, and gas-station popcorn. My mother is isolation, alienation, hopelessness, and despair. My mother is fear.

My mother is homeless and schizophrenic. She lives in a halfway house in Alaska, and she suffers. Part of her suffering comes from inside, from her f-ed up frontal lobe, from genetics combined with environmental exposure combined with whothefuckknows. The other part of her suffering comes from outside, from being homeless. The inside and the outside feed each other, make a great cycling loop of isolation-alienation-hopelessness-despair that our culture will never interrupt. Round and round goes the loop, isolation and lack of treatment making her illness worse while the paranoia of her illness causes her to isolate herself even further. The upside is that the suffering that comes from inside of her is so huge and real, that the conditions of her physical environment must pale in comparison.

My mother has been a victim of the horrors and hallucinations of her own brain (which are modeled after her deepest, most secret fears) for the past 25 years. My mother’s paranoia causes her drive away those closest to her, or those who would try to come close. She is angry, spiteful, elusive, psychotic, and often violent, and for this reason she is without a single friend.

My mother is crouched alone somewhere, in a room that I have never seen, arguing vehemently with the voices in her head. She is trembling and rocking back and forth. She is chain smoking. She will not eat. She will not talk. She is hallucinating. And yet she lives, and lives, and lives.

My mother exists.

What I don’t understand is how my mother can suffer so much, and for so long, and have such a low quality of life, only to die someday, and then just be dead.

There’s no story arc to that. There’s no “Life is beautiful, life is hard” in that equation. There’s no dignity, no simple pleasures. There’s no “Things got shitty but we were brave and now we’re stronger for it”. There’s just badness, on and on and on, a black and infinite badness, like how you feel on the very worst day of your entire life, only forever, and with no ending or beginning. One single, endless moment, of suffering.

My mother didn’t do anything wrong to go crazy. She was just a regular person once, a sort of american archetype- young, beautiful, working class, small-minded, and racist. She was petty and shallow, bad at math but good at basketball. Just out of highschool she met my father, and they moved to Alaska to try their hand at life. There were jobs in Alaska. It was the seventies, and white people were moving there in droves. The quarreling, drama-prone couple settled in the mountains outside of Anchorage, half-built their house, and had two kids in the first four years. (In Alaska, if your house is not “finished”, you do not have to pay property taxes.) Somewhere in that murky, convoluted time, which no-one in my family will talk about and which contained a messy divorce, a restraining order, and my brother and I spending a total of two years in foster homes (apart)- my mother’s frontal lobe broke. The next seven years are, for me, mercifully blank, although I have been trying recently to get the memories back. (How to do this- therapy? Hypnosis? Writing?) I do not remember what my favorite foods were, what clothes I wore, or what kinds of toys I liked to play with, before the age of nine. I do not remember if I had any friends, if we had pets, where we lived, or anything about school or any of my teachers. And after the divorce (restraining order?) I never saw my father again.

If my mother hadn’t been in Alaska, so far away from her (controlling, hostile, small-minded) family, and so stubborn about staying there, then she might’ve ended up like my aunt. My aunt is also schizophrenic. She’s on a toxic cocktail of medications that took many decades to perfect and many cycles through the revolving door of the mental health system. These medications cause my aunt many unpleasant side effects, but she is functional. She has her own little house, her own interests and hobbies, a job, friends, and community. My aunt suffers, but it is closer to the way that we all suffer- endlessly, but with bright spots, flares from the infinite darkness, bits of poetic justice, hope. She has been known to keep geese, watch interesting documentaries, and ride her bicycle in the sunshine. She is a tireless fountain of trivia, very curious, and endlessly engaged with life.

She was also her mother’s favorite, the first-born, the one closest to her parents. And so it wasn’t hard for her to stick close to home and get support when she needed it, and when she ran away it wasn’t as far, and her parents were always able to bring her back.

In the beginning my mother was too stubborn to leave Alaska, too stubborn to admit that she had failed. She had no marketable skills, she had no clue how to raise children, and the friends she had made she was driving away, one by one, with her paranoia and her anger. But she was too stubborn to give up, and in the end Alaska and total destitution were the only things she knew. The life she’d had before Alaska was slowly eclipsed by the life inside her busted frontal lobe- a life that was like a movie projected onto the empty space around her- god, satan, the virgin Mary, and most of all, demons who knew her most secret insecurities and taunted her, day after day after day.

In a way, we are all like my mother. We all suffer, and we all occupy realities that we create inside of us, with our thoughts and our spirits and our expectations, and that we project onto the world around us, like a movie. Each of our movies is different, and yet each of our movies is real.

We are all like my mother, and we are none of us like her.

Once, in a crowded, wooden kitchen in the forest, I met an old man who told me that we humans are meant to experience the goodness, joy, and beauty of life about sixty percent of the time, and to dwell in the darker, more painful places for the other forty percent. This balance is based on the golden ratio, he said, which is a pattern that pops up often in nature, architecture, art, and the patterns of galaxies. It is one of the patterns of existence, a spiral and, mathematically, a sort of tilted balance, a leaning scale that lists towards Life and keeps us from slipping back into that dark abyss of pre-existence.

If my mother’s life is meant to be 60/40 goodness/badness, then do her pre-marriage years count as goodness? Did they consist entirely of flawless, sun-filled days, of flips on the trampoline, of sewing pinafores, of bickering breezily with her siblings? Is this why she was spit out into the world so helpless, without any skills, so small-minded and so shallow? Was it because she had never experienced suffering? Because she had never really been crushed by life, had never experienced the blackness of despair? Would a little bit of suffering have inoculated her against the dark hole of badness that she was about to stumble into?

And if my mother’s young years were pure goodness, and her adult years were pure suffering, then she has, as of this writing, spent equal time in each. Which makes the ratio of her experience 50/50, and counting slowly higher on the side of darkness. And what of that, universe? Does the irregular nature of her suffering to not-suffering ratio create imbalance somewhere else in the cosmos? Does it alter the fabric of space-time? Does it contribute to global warming? Does it speed us towards environmental catastrophe and ecological collapse?

Or is her unwarranted burden of suffering just a reflection of a larger trend, a mirror in which, if we are brave enough to look, we can see the grossly unjust worldwide distribution of resources, the disparity between the rich and poor in our own country and others, and the vague, far-flung wars we participate in but whose purpose we do not understand and whose aftermath we will never have to see.

A mirror in which, if we are brave enough to look, we can see all of the individuals, in our culture and in others, who must carry the burden of suffering and who will never be forgotten, because we do not bother to know them in the first place.

(In honor of the fact that my mother (still) exists, I am going to write about her every day for a week. This is the first post.)

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?


Look! I wrote something!

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




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’m back

It is so strange to be back in the city.

It is raining, I cannot ride my bicycle. The air is cold and grey- there is fruit out there, ripening, figs and blackberries, but I do not know how to find them. Last September it was not like this- last September there was long yellow light and the sidewalks were strewn with walnuts and moldering flower petals.

It is hard to leave the forest. They dry, breezy forest where I have slept these last five months. In the forest there are always good smells, pine pitch and green things, everything is fresh, there is dust, and small mammals with bright black eyes who make their lives in the dirt and the moss and in the food cabinet of the outdoor kitchen, in a crumpled plastic bag. They eat the bag of green tea that was left there. They eat fifteen grains of brown rice. They do not want the rice cakes. No-one wants the rice cakes, not even me. Rice cakes are famine food, although I did not used to feel this way. The mice build a nest of hair and cloth fibers behind the bottle of olive-oil. They have just gotten settled when I wake them, mid-day, and they stumble out on their hopping gerbil-feet and huddle, confused and disoriented. I can not bear to scold them because they eat green tea-leaves and harm no-one. Gentle beings with their tiny, beating hearts.

It is so strange to be back in the city. I woke too early this morning, all the world was present in the warm damp wind from the window- jet-planes were in attendance, and freight trains, and buses, and garbage trucks with their crashing sounds of glass like windows breaking. If only there were the sounds of water running underground, and the clatter of breakfast dishes, and stars exploding. But it is hard to be present to the whole world at once- my ignorance of some things keeps me sane. I do not think I could stand to hear the stars exploding.

Not in attendance were the animal sounds. “I think that the season of screaming birds is over,” I say to you, from my half of the bed. We are both bathed in light, much more light than I am used to. Your old bedroom, downstairs, got little light. And in the forest the light was blocked by leaves and wood. Now you have moved into an attic bedroom with windows at both ends, and the light and winds blow through, woo-woo, in one end and out the other, and shine off the hardwood floors and colorful walls. There is room for yoga and dancing and a dozen reading chairs. The view is of peaked rooftops and the tops of trees. And in the distance, a rainbow windsock. And the thick grey sky.

The rain has stopped, and there is so much to do. It is September, and there are so many things. I can write again, and soon I start school. Today though I will unpack the car, and get on my bicycle, and go to the grocery story for carrots and chicken broth. I will do laundry and go to the bank. I will make my bed and put the books on my bookshelf. I will search out more Fitzgerald. I will sleep early, in the dim musty light of my shack, with its walls banked in moldering leaves and its light filtered through raspberry canes. And tomorrow! And the next day! And all of September! And I am in the city now!