Thruhiker – Day 7

March 26 (7:00 – 15:45)
Sweetwater Park – Magnolia Promenade (22 mi)
Total C2C miles: 123.5
Weather: Cold, cloudy, partly sunny – rain in the morning and evening

I wake to see the roof of my tent sagging in, and I get up when it’s still a little dark. A puddle becomes an ocean on the top of my tent, and I’m out just in time before it crashes down, water everywhere.

There’s nothing for it, but to pack up and head out.

Sometimes it’s peaceful, and sometimes, it’s not. It would be peaceful if I could get my mind around it, relax, accept the rain, and realize, hey. I’m waterproof.

But when it’s so cold, when breakfast is a handful of raisins and nuts, and my socks are wet, and my heels are getting blisters, I wonder what I’m doing.

What made me think I was up for this?

Why am I leaving, anyway?

Why walk across the country?

And then the rhythm starts in again, step after step, and my body heat rises, and my soggy socks dry somehow, and the sun pokes out.

I find a spot mid-morning, with the sun so bright. I spread out my tent and my wet clothes on a rock. I change into dry things. I rummage through my pack and make a decent snack of a wrap spread with peanut butter and apple slices. It tastes good cold.

This is why I’m doing this. I find a kind of freedom here. I’m not separate from the patterns of weather. Whether it rains or shines has a good deal with what I need to do, with how I feel.

Behind it all, there’s a silence.

I don’t feel this silence when I am bound up with the daily fabric of the world of people around me. Then, there’s always a hum of “what-to-do-next,” “where-to-go,” “what-to-buy,” “who-to-see.”

But now, all I have to do each day is walk and care for myself so that I am in good shape for the walking.

Around mid afternoon, my trail has led me along the river, through the meadows to the bayside town of Magnolia, across the water from the city of Stanton.

I wonder if the trail’s silence will follow me, now that the path wends along the road, and skyscrapers poke the bellies of clouds on the other side of the bay.

The streets are wet, and somehow, it is the puddles that connect me back to rhythms of the trail.

The same rain fell here that fell on the meadows.

On the dock, I spy Stanton Sisters Cupcakes, a franchise famous throughout this region. Stanton Red Velvet Cupcakes have been featured on tv shows and gourmet magazines.

I’m getting one.

I order pasta from the food booth, too, and find a park bench in sliver of sun.

The courtyard is empty, so while I eat, my trail-side silence sits next to me, and I feel like I have a tiny bit of home here with me, in this place I’ve never been.

After my early dinner, I look out over the bay. I could walk on. It’s not even 4:00 p.m. yet.

But I feel peaceful and drowsy. Stanton Sisters sell spiced hibiscus tea, and I sit on the dock waiting for sunset.

I can sleep here. It’s a thruhiker-friendly town. The steamboat docked here is a B’n’B, and they open a few rooms for thruhikers, so we can shower or even sleep inside, if we want, and they let us set up our tents on the dock.

I’ve read on hiking blogs that during the peak season, the dock fills with thruhikers’ tents. I’m the only one tonight.

I can’t sleep. I wonder how I ever slept when we lived in the city, with people all around.

I never felt lonely on the trail, but here, with the voices of people sashaying down from the corner bar, I feel isolated. I listen for silence, and I find it in the sky, behind the clouds. That’s what I hold in my mind as I crawl into my tent and lay in my sleeping bag with my eyes open.

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Thruhiker: Day 6

March 25 (8:30 – 16:15)
Dawson County Line – Sweetwater Park (20 mi)
Total C2C miles: 101.5
Weather: Cold, cloudy, rainy – again!

I can’t seem to catch a break with the weather. It’s cold and cloudy again, and as the clouds grow heavy, I expect rain.

I shouldn’t be surprised. This is March, and March is all about rain.

But somehow, with our weird cold spell, I expected the normal patterns to shift completely. I had this idea that the cold would split to heat, and that once the jet stream wobbled again, we’d have warm southern air.

I shouldn’t complain. It’s good weather for walking. I bundle up, wear my sleeves that reach down to cover my fingers, snuggle on my knit cap, and walk.

The walking, especially with my pack on my back, keeps me warm.

Hiker’s hunger hasn’t yet set in. I’ve still got my city-life baby fat to help fuel the miles. The hunger I feel is just ordinary hunger that can be satisfied with a handful of nuts, a few dates, and an apple. Then, I’m good to go again.

I hear that it’s in the fourth week of hiking that the hunger really settles in, and then, trail food doesn’t really cut it. I will be in the mountains by then, and I’ve scouted out a few trail towns to detour to so I can fill up on spaghetti.

This is how it is on the trail: I’m walking through the most beautiful landscapes, and what do I think of? Eating spaghetti three weeks from now, anticipating my future hunger.

I bring myself back to the sensation of the packed dirt beneath my feet. Each step makes a slight sloop sound. Or maybe it’s more like slop. Plock. Swop.

The air smells sweet and moist, the scent of daisies swirling with the rain smell.

Drops of mist gather on my eyelashes, and through them, the world looks bedazzled, with diamonds sparkling everywhere.

Then silence, and the stopping of thoughts, and the miles are built on footsteps, heartbeats, breaths, and this is why I take to the trail, for these moments when all-that-is is right now, and I am alive, in the moment, in the breathing landscape around me, listening to the heartbeats and murmurs of trees.

The air is different now, and I am 19 miles from my county line. I am in a new land, and with each step, I will be further and further from my old home.

I think it’s right about here that I pass the 100 mile mark. For a moment, I consider stopping here, setting up camp at mile 100, but I want to press on for a little longer, before sun sets. I want to walk 20 miles today, and that means going another mile down the trail.

Then I come to the perfect spot to set up my tent, in a little clearing beside the river.

Once my tent is up, the drizzle turns to rain, and I’m grateful the downpour waited until after my tent was pitched. I will stay warm and dry inside tonight, even when it pours.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 29

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

Willow
For Sylvia

They say in nothing lies madness,
poets, mad women,
Sylvia.

Sylvia, like an elm.
A willow rests in nothing.
Its roots stretch
through gaps
between soil
into spaces
where water flows.

In nothing lies peace,
not escape
but rescue
from crossed-wires
that flame into too
many words.

Claim your name–
Sylvia. Find the deep
woods, past where the elm
grows. Go deeper, to the
willow. Burrow through
the empty spaces,
follow water,
to find,
this silent

spot

of solace.

Daily Prompt:  “Write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

I chose Plath’s Elm.

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GloPoWriMo: Day 18

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The Escape

Oh, Brueghel! I can’t stand
to look at you, these days.
All those primary colors–
yellow skirts fighting with
blue shirts over red hose.

Put the party to rest.
Let the muscles relax.
Let me go to the meadow,
the woods, the fields,
away from the courtyard
overflowing with all of you.

No, I want to sit,
leave the dance
to the very young,
to the strong.

Let the bodies
meet the bodies
that want the flesh.

I want the spirit–
just for now.
Just this evening.

Let me fast
or drink plain water.

Let me grow thin.
Silence the steel guitar.
Hush your voice.

Still. Let me sit still.
This life presses in.

Oh, Brueghel.
A different time.
Youth, perhaps.
Or maybe, a time
when stillness
and silence
weren’t so hard to find.
I can’t look at you now.

Daily Prompt: “First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

Author’s note: My source poem, chosen at random from an anthology, was William Carlos Williams’ The Dance. (You can hear him read it at the link!) At home, we’re approaching the tail end of a kitchen remodel, so I’m a bit frazzled, and the idea of any more people and any more noise–even if they’re represented on canvas or in a poem about a painting–is a bit too much!

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GloPoWriMo: Day 10

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Morning

Apples simmer on the stove
Fuji, gala, Granny Smith.
Water hisses in the kettle–
for coffee,
Mexican organic free trade
smelling of chocolate, wine, and tangerine
when I grind the beans

Bread turns to toast
on the top rack
of the oven
under the broiler

I think of poem titles
that all have to do
with limes

A cello picks up
the theme
in a fugue
in a Haydn quartet
on a CD
in the living room

My boyfriend
bustles into the kitchen
with a joke
about an imaginary
friend
we invented thirty-five
years ago. (She hasn’t aged.)

From the top branch
of the mesquite
a house finch
sings.

A spiny lizard stretches
across the top of the fence
reaching towards a slice
of sunlight.

Before the toast
burns, onions
sizzle in olive oil
in the sauce pan,
waiting to become
the inside of an omelette.

In the moment
just before the water boils–
silence.

no bird song
no sizzle
no hiss
no cello

no thought of poems–

Will you come with me,
into the quiet moment
in between
the bustle?

Daily Prompt: “Write a poem of simultaneity – in which multiple things are happening at once,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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Septemus 75

Cross Country and Home

rebirth17

I took a day for myself. Xirra and Shésti were coming the next day, and Whisper and Emmanuel soon after.

My mind still spun with the jokes of Panda and the worries of Anakin, and I needed to let the wind blow through me to clear everything out.

Some of the kids I run with at school talked about training at the state park at Oasis Springs, which is criss-crossed with trails and open spaces. I got up early and caught a bus.

By noon, I was running through the desert.

rebirth18

I had been here before. Once.

The crash site was near here.

rebirth19

I didn’t know where, exactly. It had been cordoned off, the records classified. I could have found a way to get them, if I’d wanted. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel a need to.

Still, once I was there, I felt it all around me.

rebirth20

The crash happened here, the defining event for the lives of one-hundred-and forty-five of us, plus those who care for us.

rebirth26

I couldn’t hear the silence of the desert for the pounding of thoughts and fears, trying to get in, banging to get out.

rebirth25

I hit the trail before I even decided to run, and my legs moved, propelled by an energy that didn’t seem to come from within me.

rebirth16

It could be anywhere, any valley, any clearing, any ravine where young trees grew back from a fire fifteen years before.

rebirth14

The trail wound upwards through rock bluffs.

rebirth27

This was where it had happened, somewhere around here.

rebirth15

I ran up the trail until it ended at a rock cliff, and then I climbed.

rebirth24

Pulling myself up the final ledge, I found myself in a high meadow.

The breeze carried the dry scent of sage and cinquefoil.

rebirth12

I fell into myself. My hearts slowed with each breath. It is beautiful here.

rebirth13

My legs ached from the running and my shoulders were tight and sore.

I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked over the valley.

I had seen those distant mountains before. I shuddered.

Hands held me, a soft voice spoke. The scent of strawberries.

rebirth22

The scent of strawberries. What memory had that come from?

rebirth03

The road snaked between cliffs. My legs trembled.

The sound of a truck rattling down the road, its cargo clanging with every bump. “Keep them safe! Drive slower!”

A whisper and a song.

rebirth21

A cactus wren sang from the top of a creosote bush.

Blue morpho butterflies hovered over the desert poppies.

rebirth01

This planet is so beautiful.

rebirth02

I lay down in the sun in a clearing.

Our ship had been up there, in this very sky.

rebirth11

Xirra told me that it burst into flame when it entered the planet’s atmosphere.

rebirth10

My legs began to shake. I didn’t stop them. I lay on the desert floor, while tremors rattled through me.

I closed my eyes.

Situ held me. She whispered to me, kissed my forehead, and placed me gently into the travel pod.

The walls echoed with the clang of the metal clasp as it snapped shut.

I opened my eyes and breathed to let the tremors fade. Something inside me knew both not to stop the shivers when they came, but also not to go too far, too deep, too soon.

I breathed and looked back at the sky.

rebirth08

When I was ready, I closed my eyes and let the memories return.

It was dark and still inside the pod.

Then the language-learning tapes began.

“Hello! Can you tell me the way to the library? Thank you very much!”

“Hello! Can you tell me the way to the library? Thank you very much!”

“Hellocanyoutellmethewaytothelibrarythankyouverymuch!”

“Hellocanyo–“

Silence. My ears burst from the pressure.

I opened my eyes again. I breathed.

It’s OK, I reminded myself. I am safe. Sanghi.

I felt the warmth of the sun. I listened to the wren sing. I thought of Pops, Octy, Panda, Anakin. I breathed. I remembered that Xirra was coming, with Shésti, and Whisper and Emmanuel would come. I thought of of Xilla, Kedi, little Fi, the little songbird Taimi, Momo, Rocket, Amber. We were all on the ship together. Oriana, Cheddar, and more, whose names I didn’t know, whose songs I hadn’t yet heard, but we were here together.

This is my home.

I thought of Situ, who brought us here.

rebirth06

I closed my eyes again, and I sank into the dark silence.

Still. Black.

I was clawing, pushing, kicking. The shell didn’t budge. My legs trembled and I pushed.

A crack of light.

rebirth23

A white ring opens.

I cry out. The light hurts my eyes.

Hands hold my ribs, and I am lifted out.

Yozimufi. Sanghi,” says a soft voice, don’t cry, you’re safe, and I smell strawberries. Something that feels like water brushes my face–a blond braid.

“Stop!” shouts a voice. “Don’t open the others! We have to get them back to the lab!”

I am nestled into warm arms, and the strawberry voice hums a lullaby that Situ used to sing.

When the trembling stops, I open my eyes and rise, unfurling.

rebirth05

I am home.

I look across the wide desert. My ears fill with the songs of vireos and the scents of home: sage and sand and wind and rain and the dry dirt composed of carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur. The minerals of home.

I’m not Baxin’ivre. I am Septemus Sevens, and this is the site of my birth.

rebirth04

This is where I am supposed to be.

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Forgotten Art: Jasper -Seth 3

A reply to: A letter from Seth

seth302

Hey, Seth. Thank you for your letter.

I hope the sun isn’t so hungry today.

I went out to the bluffs this evening. Here, the fog slides in from the bay, and even the wrens are still.

seth308

I liked these sentences you wrote: “The human species is a great big mirrored funhouse. It’s distorted projections of the self all the way down.”

This ties in with my response to your request:  “Tell me, about your words; when do you know they are lies, and when do you know they are true?”

seth307

I guess it depends on how one defines “lies.” I’ll assume that we both know what we mean by true. We feel it, right? Or at least, that’s how it works for me. For example, I feel the truth of your words.

seth305

If we take a lie to be an intentional diversion of truth, through misdirection, omission, or distortion, then my words don’t lie, for I don’t intend to divert the truth.

seth303

But if we take a lie to be a softening of the harshness of direct perception, then, yes. Sometimes, my words lead down a softer path, and that’s the only path I have the strength and resolve to follow, sometimes.

seth304

If we take a lie to be our accounts of our travels through the mirrored funhouse, then yes. All words lie. Or at least all of mine do, for my perception is colored by my existence in this form, with my particular and individual neurochemically driven responses and interpretations.

seth309

My wife, Bess, used to talk to me of the vertical and horizontal currents of energy. I never understood what she meant during her lifetime, but I am beginning to feel those currents now that I’ve been relieved from the demands of my career and I have time to feel.

I’ve been practicing qigong with a group that meets most mornings in the grassy area near my house. Qigong, according to my teacher, is about these two currents of energy, the vertical and the horizontal. What she says fits with what I feel.

The vertical channel connects us with the universe, with life energy, with the abstract, and with the earth. The horizontal connects us with the social.

seth301

It’s the vertical that’s got my attention right now and that I want to experience and explore. For me, that’s the connection with truth.

seth315

seth316

What happens–and it’s happening even now as I write this–is that as I try to translate my experience of that vertical channel of energy into the horizontal, so that I can communicate it with another person, the words tangle it. What I write feels like a lie, though I am intending to write the truth.

seth317

I don’t possess your genius for communicating unmediated truth.

Have you ever read Wittgenstein? I love that man. Six multi-part propositions, expressed in a treatise of nearly 70 pages, to lead to this single observation:

The right method of philosophy would be this. To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. the propositions of natural science, i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the other—he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy—but it would be the only strictly correct method.

My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

seth318

I haven’t yet mastered the art of silence, though that is what I am working on now–though you can’t tell it’s part of my practice from my nonsensical ramblings in this letter!

I don’t know how to be a silent pen pal. Send you a blank sheet of paper, I guess.

Bess used to talk to me about etiquette. I had a phase, early in my career, when I was fed up with academic politics and anything that felt inauthentic. Etiquette felt inauthentic to me.

That’s when I stopped shaving. But I also took up expressing exactly how I felt exactly when I felt it to exactly whomever I was speaking.

My “bout with unmitigated authenticity” just about cost me my career.

seth310

seth311

seth312

Eventually, Bess got me to understand that the conventions for social communication helped to form a space for safety, and within that space, authenticity might occur.

We need to know the other person’s not going to stab us with a knife before we’ll show him our soft spots.

seth313

I hear a lot of pain in your words, a history of betrayal.

On this planet, so many people have been so hurt, and most of it, for no purpose and so avoidable. I am sorry to feel that you, too, have been hurt. This pain, caused by others, it is so often so needless.

seth314

We’re all so vulnerable, really. Soft, fleshy beings, with nothing between us and infinity but the structures of our minds, the chatter of our thoughts, that form a wall, a barrier against the indefinable silence.

seth319

At one point, a person can decide: I will do my best not to add to my own pain. Then they might decide: I will do what I can not to contribute to others’ pain. Then they might decide: I will do what I can, within the scope of my responsibility and path, to help alleviate the suffering of others.

Maybe I can do some good.

seth320

That’s the commitment I’ve made to life. Right now, my scope feels very narrow: my family. A few neighbors. I would like to help anyone that will let me, anyone that I have the capacity to help.

It starts here, with me, hooking up with life, the grand mistress. From there, maybe I reach out to as many as I can hold in my arms at one time: my niece. My grand-niece. My nephew, if he’ll let me.

Then, I walk through life, and I see who shows up. If I’ve got the capacity to show up, and another person has the capacity to show up, maybe we can help each other. Maybe, we hold out our hands–see? No pistol. No knife. Maybe, we can become friends.

seth306

I know you can read into my words, Seth. I hope that you can read into the silence beyond them.

I’m not wise enough to know when not to speak. And I hope you’ll forgive me for being a foolish old man.

With love and gratitude,

Jasper

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