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.