Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Morning Words for 10/08/14

   10/08/14:  A night’s sleep taken in two doses, with an break in the middle, an island of intentional consciousness to rise and wander out to the back yard at 3am, the highway hum no quieter than in mid day, to watch as the full blood moon becomes overtaken by the Earth’s shadow, subdued red light sliding across it’s face until the whole spherical rock blocked in dark red with a halo around it’s outer edges. 
   Somewhere in the second dose of rest a dream.   A finely dressed man in white with white bolo hat has come to talk with Nathan.  The man is a social worker advocate for activists.  I point out where Nathan is and the man looks up behind where we stand.  Up on a window washer’s scaffolding with two or three others, I think two, suspended fifty feet above the earth by wires from a crane, hanging there in active protest against something, an air-sit-in. Nathan’s voice comes down all friendly and welcoming.  The man in white looks on, knowing that this will be another one of many climbing jobs, a part of his work he has become resigned to.  The other two in the scaffolding rearrange squares of wood to make a platform in the floor-less scaffolding where they could stretch out to sleep as it is night time after all.  
   The morning sky was filled with fire islands in a Crater Lake blue sky.  It was a sight to behold as I stood with naked feet on the cold concrete walkway between the door and the sidewalk, hoping to catch a final glimpse of the partial full moon before it dipped west into Japanese skies.  But she was already gone and so that was that.  Instead I settled for the amazement as the first fiery rays of dawn lit the sky ablaze.  I tried to draw the colors in, so vivid if you tried to paint them they would be written off as unreal.   A photograph would be suspected of tampering.  But underneath the dramatic tapestry there was no doubt that it was the real dawn sky, trying to compete with the full moon eclipse that had preceded it. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dream Along The River

Written beside the Deschutes River in May

     In a dream I am not at home on North Montana Avenue but instead in the Deschutes River Canyon, under the shade of cottonwood trees.  The sky can’t decide what sort of day it is going to be and so it is constantly changing clothes.   A new shirt here, different pants there.

...Fields of lavender lupines and bouquets of wild sun flowers

...I watched a magpie flying low over new crops then rise up to perch on the branch of a pine that was standing alone

...the swallows dance above the river as if they were angelic trapeze artists hanging from spider web ropes tied to the clouds

...the canyon walls resonate excitement as every living being knows the smell of steelhead pheromones sweet like bees wax means that the river veins have brought a banquet of Life back for the Earth to feast on.

...In the background the day whispers in the leaves in and out of the river’s dull ovation

...Alone is a dear friend I haven’t seen in years and it feels uncomfortable and a little sad how we’ve nearly become strangers we’ve lost each other’s dialect and struggle to learn it again

...Mourning Dove, your song never gets old!  Play it again, the lyrics remind me of loved ones who have left

...I wish I could paint the honeycomb air and match the shades of green new sages and the shoreline trees and the redwing blackbird scattered sparse solos so much soul

...In this dream I can feel every emotion all at once, like a bright white light.  In a prism I separate the colors in order to put them all back in their place in the box, all reds together, all yellows together, etc.

...The sky asks which we like better, the grey sweater or the shirt.  I say ‘the red and blue plaid’ and the sky just laughs and laughs so hard tears come with huge gasps for air.  I guess the red and blue plaid was the obvious answer to choose...

...Just to extend the joke, both the sweater and the shirt are torn in two and the two halves are sewn together and now me and the sky are matching, both half in and half out.   More laughter.

...This is the direction to sit and watch the clouds roll in from the West.  This morning the sky was grey felt, wet in places, universal.  This afternoon they are soft clouds of medium size in unique shapes, the sort you can watch for hours from a blanket in the grass, imagining pictographs of unlimited possibilities.  They are like floats in a sky parade.  A dancing elephant has just come over the cliffs.

...the sky finally dons an old raggedy grey sweater from a punk house free box now, and again now, big gaping holes where threads have given way, the blue and golden t shirt show through at times brilliant.

...waking life comes knocking but I don’t have the time right now and so it tries to yell through the window.  I watch lips move for a moment but I can’t hear a thing with the river babble and the leaf mutter.  I allow myself to be hypnotized by their chanting, Waving sage bows at me they take me back to my private dream.

...The sun whispers quietly as the wind runs its fingers through my hair.

...I scan the ledges of the rock walls hoping I will see a wild sheep high on the edge just a step away from the Eternal.  I imagine that it would appear to me like an apostle, bearing gifts of a sacred knowledge reserved only for those who wait with time and patience.

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Friday, May 2, 2014


     Its another Friday morning I sit at the little kitchen table eating a make-shift breakfast of sliced apple with almond butter, yogurt, boiled potatoes and carrot with week-old chicken, sipping espresso from a 41 year old Danish mug.  This is usually when I drive out to an acupuncture appointment, a measure of self preservation I partake in weekly to keep tensions and thyroid condition symptoms at bay.  I don’t feel like it today.  I’m thinking that maybe I’ll try to go on Sunday instead. 

     Today I will retrieve my Olympia typewriter, my UZI letter machine that requires a outdoor shooting range or sound-deadened chamber to use within 20 yards of anyone whose emotional state I care about.  National Poetry Month has concluded but I am still saturated in it’s glow, right in the middle and still making progress as time allows, in the 750 page biography of Brautigan.  Why is he my literary hero?  His simplicity of imagery and language I find extremely accessible and layered, allowing me to peel away at as I add candles to the cake.  My father asked if I might want a few Brautigan titles for my upcoming birthday but scanning my library I see that I may already have all his published works that are not relegated to very rare and highly collectable status.  And I don’t want to fetishize the writer with such pursuit of these artifacts.  I just want to crawl into his writing, to wear it for a while, to see what elements work and learn what I might about the craft of writing. 

     Next weekend Eli and I have scheduled a weekend getaway - just for myself.  Before we began living together in the fall of 2007 I made these retreats to the wilderness often.  I would do some writing and a lot of observing.  I discovered I had natural rituals like instinctive patterns each day that were unique to being in nature unaccompanied.  I would rise and go for a walk before thinking about coffee or food.  If camped in a valley, that walk would take me to the ridge line or at least a ways up, to take in the greater view.  Then I would return back to camp, shit in a bathroom or cat hole before making coffee and cooking some breakfast. 

     On my adventures I would discover remote corners of National Forest, remote campgrounds reserved for those of us requiring a wider expanse of range to feel free.  I was in constant pursuit of a new sanctuary, more remote, quieter than the last.  This morning I find myself doing the familiar research, sparked by an idea, the fuel my imagination.  THe kindling and ultimate firewood provided by online maps, following tiny grey forest road lines through the mottled green to some camp whose frequency of use is described as ‘light’. 

     This time I will be bringing tools of my current stage of a creative life; a bicycle, the Olympia, and a camera.  Actually I will likely bring two cameras, maybe three.  One, a Mamiya RB67 from the 1970’s is suitable for use with a tripod, allowing for longer exposures and small apertures.  THe next will be a Mamiya C330, also from the 1970’s, purchased in the Philippines by an Army captain whose daughter eventually sold the camera to me.  That machine is better suited for travel, no tripod required.  The leaf shutter and lack of mirror reflex allows for slower shutter speeds while handheld.  The square negatives give a different context to the images, mostly adding more foreground to the context of the composition.  The third should it be included, will be a Canon 35mm camera, the ultimate in portable image capturing.  This will likely be loaded with color slide film.

     As the Brautigan biography carefully illustrates his young years traveling up the Mackenzie river to angle for trout in the small tributary creeks, this is where my imagination is draws me.  I have never explored the Mackenzie River area but it leads to a part of the Cascades that has magic energy similar to parts of remote New Mexico.  Spirits of ancestors who inhabited the area before Christianity still linger and watch over these places.  I can feel their presence and heed their urging to be a careful steward during my visit.  I spend a lot of quiet time allowing them to speak to me in whispers others can not hear.  This is a ‘tuned in’ feeling I long for and usually find on these sojourns.  It takes having enough time to allow for the cacophony of modern life to subside.   This is where I can express my essence, the core of my being without the influence of criticism or other social pressures.  The pressure releases and my sensory perception expands.  My soul expands and I am allowed to be who I was meant to be, not having to try and fit into somebody else’s form. 

     Why this should be a vacation and not a life is absurd.  But I, like many, can not find the way to reverse these roles.  I blame part fear and part lack of imagination that binds me to my toil.  Perhaps I could use the aid of a psychoanalyst and a cartographer or an anal cartoonist or a cartoon anus.  For the latter I need only to read the works of one time Schenectady area resident Kurt Vonnegut who incorporated his illustrated version of a cat’s asshole in some of his literary works.  And so I come full circle, knowing that my summer reading list will incorporate Vonnegut’s Slauterhouse Five and perhaps some other works that can hopefully make sense of a modern American life out of step. 

     This is what compels me to read, a continual search for answers and if answers will not be not found, at least I may find ointment for the open questions exposed to infection, an opiate for the sting.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Springy Weekend

   Some of our friends and family may still wonder what it is that draws people away from the East Coast to live so far away, on the other side of the continent.
   Yesterday Eli and I ventured out to Powell Butte, an old volcano bump in the Southeast corner of Portland.  I had never been there before so we were exploring new territory.  Powell Butte appears to be the remnants of farm land with a nut orchard in the middle.  There's a large series of trails the loop around and intersect each other, covering open grassland and densely forested areas.  Currently there is some major construction happening at the main parking area which appears to be a significant development of parking lot, bathrooms and who knows what else.
   The park is home to coyotes and black tail mule deer, one of which we spotted towards the end of our walk.  The sun was mostly out and I carried my jacket for the entire visit and was still uncomfortably warm.  In the forested section we spotted the first trilliums we've seen so far this year.  That means winter is gone, we're into spring.  Also seen were many stellar jays, a soaring red tailed hawk, American kestrel hovering above a field in search of rodent, a yet unidentified woodpecker, and a rufus sided towhee perched in a blossoming cherry tree. 
   When we returned home I rolled the lawn mower out of the garage for the first mow of 2014.  After much priming and pleading I got it cranked up was able to cut the weeds down to a nearly consistent height.  Our lawn currently consists of about 80% intended grass, a sub layer of moss and also a good amount of some weed/flower thing that spreads quite successfully popping up here and there.  I also spotted the first dandelions.
   Today Eli and I spent the majority of the day weeding our garden beds, pulling each tiny brassaca plant out before it could broadcast it's tiny seeds across the yard.  that was a lot of work for about 6 square yards of garden.  Somewhere during the weed campaign I had to take a break to photograph the plum tree full of beautiful blossoms.  You'll have to wait to see the results.  Eli has staked the brass bed head into one of the beds and is planting sugar snaps as I write. 
   It is true we do miss our friends and being by the ocean, driving a few hours to visit family.  But being in Oregon has its benefits.  Good luck with all that snow...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winter Drags It's Beaten Body Away

   Time tumbles along while we flutter about with our busy and important tasks from day to day.  In October 2013 there was a visit to Upstate  New York which included a rustic wedding in a campground in Maryland that involved two grooms one being my dear cousin Michael.  It had been years, I suppose it was my cousin Mark's wedding, since my Eichler side of the family had been gathered together, or at least when I've been there as well.   We followed my cousin's wedding with a three night stay in Fly Creek, NY, courtesy of a generous Quaker descendant of Emily Dickinson.  Ms. Dickinson relinquished to us her property for three nights so the family could congregate.
   Fly Creek is a stone's throw from Cooperstown and the farm in Edmeston where my ancestors had toiled until misfortune saw it slip away from the family.  My mother had spent a lot of her formative years with her Grandma on that farm.  She drove Eli and I there one evening for a tour of the old farm (from the road) and the house in town where Grandma Rood and her husband moved after he was no longer able to tend to the farm.  That house in town is what I recall from being a child, the smell of antiquity, her giant gray furry cat Chester, the cabinet filled with a collection of China trinkets and salt/pepper shaker sets.  At the farm, a mailbox by the road still has the Rood family name on it, my Grandmother's sister in law still living there.  I returned the following morning at dawn with my Mamiya C330 to take a few photographs.  It was not the best strategy as the farm sits in a valley and was not going to be sufficiently illuminated until afternoon.  As it were my photographs are back-lit and don't really represent the farm very well.  I did manage to get a few satisfying images of the sun illuminating trees on Wilkinson Hill Road behind the farm. 
   That brief visit was in celebration of a birthday for my Mother who would appreciate not being reminded of the number of years she has accumulated.  Along with Eli and my mother and step father were my sister Caitlin, step brother Andrew and his lady friend Catherine as well as our nephew Miles.  I hadn't seen Miles in a few years and had missed his transition from teenager to adulthood.  This may have marked the first time that the age gap had come into play.  I was aware that Miles was now 21 and may have better things to do than be cooped up in a crossroads town with his old Grandparents, aunts and uncles.  He managed to stick it out alright.   It was great to see everyone and spend a few days together. 
   In January there was also a visit to Maine amidst one of the more bitterly cold and snow sodden winters they have endured in some years.  Of course when Eli and I arrived, the weather had suddenly turned and most of our days there temperatures were in the 40's to 50's and the great snow mountains along the roads and in parking lots were quickly retreating, giving off a dense fog that hung heavy in the woods.   It wasn't until I was on the bus returning to the airport to fly back to the Pacific Northwest that snow again began to fall heavily.
   Our time in Maine was split between seeing our friends and visiting with my father and step mother with whom we stayed with most nights in Ogunquit.  The house was built by my father's parents when I was just a little boy.  I had spent many vacations there, playing on the beaches, lounging on the deck drinking soda, playing with toy cars on the stair landing. 
   The house overlooks the Ogunquit tidal river and despite the encroaching expansion of the hotel below, still has a beautiful view of the Ogunquit beach and village below.  It is a special place to spend some time in any season and a place I can visit and feel the connection between the person I am today, and the small boy with light brown hair I was so many years ago.
   My folks were generous with sharing us with everyone else and even rented a car for us to be able to roam around New England to try to fit visits in with everyone.  We were able to see a lot of great people, although the visits were brief. 
   February's theme was hernia repair surgery which happened on the 6th and followed by a week of convalescing around the house.  The surgery was in the morning on a Thursday.  Eli drove my van and we arrived just before 7am.  The morning was filled with hours of waiting in a room for the anesthesiologist who was running late.  When I awoke I was in a daze.  People were talking about snow.  I had to wait another few hours in the recovery room plugged into a saline drip.  Eventually the nurse offered to walk down the hall with me and upon accomplishing this I was granted my freedom.  I dressed and was wheel chaired down to the exit where Eli was waiting with the van.  The snow was whipping around and traffic was snarled throughout the city.  Eli drove us carefully back to the neighborhood on the surface streets.  We made a stop to the drug store for my narcotics prescription and then to the comforts of home.  I was so glad to be back in our bed, with our blankets pulled up high.
   The following four days were spent in a drug induced haze which was like being covered in a soft blanket and walking about like a ghost only partially participating in the environment I was in.   I would try to read but didn't have the concentration for it.  I spent time looking up cameras I wish I could have and looking at photography web sites.  Once I was off the narcotics and the haze lifted I began a writing project reflecting on my friend Damon and my move to California in 1989.  It's still a work in progress at this point.  It may eventually show up here although it will be substantial enough that a blog post might not be the appropriate outlet for it.
   That project was brought on by Damon's birthday in January and my consequential effort to complete a mix cassette tape I had been working on for him since the previous spring. 
   I began thinking about that time in our lives and what it felt like, what the Bay Area was like back then too.  Our lives had at one time been tightly woven when we had come of age and formed our opinions of the world together.
  I used Google Earth to find locations and names of places that were prominent landmarks during our time in Oakland.  I looked up some history to see the timing of historical events and how they overlapped and how those overlaps affected outcomes.  It was truly an interesting time to be in Oakland, California.  I have often thought maybe I had made the wrong decision to leave when I did in 1992.  But I needed to change things that were going on around me.  I had been welcomed into another creative tribe in Arcata, California.  They were all in college and busy being educated and creative.
   So there's a glimpse, a sample, a window.  Today it's a traditional winter grey outside and I'm pondering a visit to the darkroom for the afternoon.  My surgery has been healing nicely and I'm nearly back to my self.   I am mounting a campaign for things to happen, changes, evolutions through cross pollination in 2014.  I will say no more until the cocoon breaks.  Thanks for reading.