567. 25 February 2007, Beloit, WI
Welcome back to Wisconsin: heres your winter storm!
I slept in late, than started my day by working to clear the driveway and walk of wet, heavy snow. It had snowed some last night, to be sure, but then it had given us hours of freezing rain, leaving wet snow laden with icy water. You scrape it off, and it freezes to ice. But its so incredibly heavy that you can only lift a little at a time. The neighbor across the street helped us immensely with his little tractor-plow, and I polished up the edges, and the walkway. I havent had to lift snow that heavy in a very long time.
deer, woods, dusk
In the indigoed light, its snowing again, thick mists fogging the distant treetops. Flakes begin to stick to the wet ground, which was covered with water and sleet, and will soon, in the chill evening, be covered with ice and snow.
deer move in the woods,
stepping high, noses down
snow falling hard, now
The watershed deer herd were mincing through the woods to the south of the house, exposed by the lack of leaves on the trees, the air dark blue with evening. One doe started to move into the yard. I picked up my laser pointer, and put the red dot on the crumbled snow at the her feet, and much to my pleased surprise, she nosed at it, the way a cat or dog will do. I moved the dot around a few times, and the doe followed closely, then I moved the dot off into the woods, and the deer bounded away. Who knew? I guess Ive discovered a new way to herd winter deer.
ruminant hooves pace
silent among fallen oak:
At dusk. the deer were walking through the woods to the south of the house, exposed by the lack of leaves on the trees. The air was dark blue with evening. One of the deer started to move into the yard. I got out my little laser pointer, and put the red dot on the ground at the deers feet, and much to my pleased surprise, it started to nose at it, the way a cat or dog will do. I moved the dot around a few times, and it followed it closely, then I moved the dot off into the woods, and the deer ran off the lawn. I had no idea that deer would act the same way with a laser that cats and dogs will do: nosing at it, chasing it, following it. I guess Ive discovered a new way to herd deer.
566. 24 February 2007, Beloit, WI
I got to Chicago yesterday afternoon, and spent last night at the studio, talking about business but also having fun, and listening to new music ideas. Then, this morning, before the winter storm watch kicked in, I drove here at last, arriving in the early afternoon. By the time I got the truck in the garage and started unloading, and having a cup of tea, the wind was up and the snow was beginning to fall.
All night the snow and freezing rain ticked and flung hard against the windows. The eastern wind was filled with ice and freezing rain. Snow has drifted across the walk again, and the light outside is cold and flickering. The power flickered twice, but didnt go out.
It looks like all the boxes I shipped have arrived. I havent counted them yet, but the numbers seem right, and Ive done some unpacking. I had a shower and an unplanned nap before dinner. The house is cooling off, but still warm enough to be comfortable. I can feel the cold outside the windows, though.
I thought to myself, a few days ago, back in the California heat, and the desert warm air: do I really want to rush back to the frigid upper Midwest? Its too damn cold. At least I missed the worst of the cold two weeks ago; they had minus 11 or worse here, while I was in California it was in the 60s or 80s, some days. Shirtsleeve weather, anyway. My reluctance to run back to the cold was noticeable, but here I am anyway. It also looks like I drove ahead of the storm, the past few days; everywhere Ive been has been just drowned under the snow and rain and other storm systems. I got here just in time to avoid being caught up in all that, at least.
565. 23 February 2007, at a truckstop, Pontoon Beach, IL
Welcome to the Police State of Misery: half a days driving across Missouri, to St. Louis, and I saw more predatory cops in half a day than Ive seen in the past several weeks combined. Maybe theyre doing a special sweep, but traffic was light and moving smoothly, so who knows why, really. Maybe some new unreported terrorist alert. All I know is, I felt like Big Brother was definitely watching all morning. Combine that with every single hotel along the row in Rolla last night all saying some variant of God Bless America or God Bless the USA on their marquees, and you get the distinct feeling that this part of the country is dominantly right wing. Not a surprise, of course, but its no fun to have your face rubbed in it.
I could never live here. The constant, daily reminders that Christianity is the only religion, which is the subtext of God Bless America, that faith means evangelical Christianity and nothing else, and it would get oppressive very quickly. Missouri contains some beautiful landscape; this part of the state is mostly limestone, hence the many caves in the region, which Id like to explore on another visit. But its another case of a beautiful land having been overlaid with cultural constructs that I find personally poisonous. I couldnt stand to be immersed in it, for longer than an occasional visit. I far prefer the cultural overlays in California, frankly, as flakey and oddball as they can be sometimes. I guess Im a Midwesterner at heart: but an upper Midwesterner, a more liberal Wisconsin type. This Bible Belt nonsense is horrifying in its deeper implications about intolerance. I have no doubt that there are many good, honest people here. But I also have no doubt that many of them would not understand where I come from, or want to.
564. 22 February 2007, Rolla, MO
The tourist stops I wanted to make today, such as Fantastic Caves, just outside of Springfield, were all closed, closed for the winter season, or because I arrived too late in the day. Oh well; so I kept driving. It turned out to be another long driving day, just covering ground. But again, Im in a good hotel for the nightnot as good a rest-stay as last night, which was exceptional, but nonetheless goodand I strolled down the street to get take-out from a local Chinese restaurant: almond chicken and pot-stickers over spicy rice. I also allowed myself to kill some time in a local video store that was having a sale on used DVDs; I picked up four, including Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence; part of a series of manga, movies, and TV series that I have become very interested in, because the series cites a lot of existential philosophy. Theyre science fiction that ask fundamental questions about what it is to be human; what the soul is, and can a cyborg or a robot have one; and how to reconcile who we are with what we become. Fascinating stuff. I watched the movie while I ate dinner. Im very tired tonight, but I feel an essay coming on.
The drive was under clear skies again, mostly over the rolling hills of Cherokee land in central Oklahoma; not as dull as the flatlands of the Texas panhandle, but not as exciting as those icy roads of the San Francisco Peaks, either. A lot of up and down, up and down, valleys and swales, hills and ridges, up and down. I guess Im okay with boring driving; the alternative is perhaps too exciting. Tomorrow I expect to drive those last hours to arrive in Chicago sometime in the afternoon.
563. 22 February 2007, at a truckstop, Joplin, MO
A good nights rest, and a quiet, slow-paced morning. I finally got on the road around 10am, not planning to kill myself by forcing another long days drive. In about 4 hours of driving I made it to Missouri. I looked into National Parks in the region, and the only one in this region is at Hot Springs, Arkansas, too far out of my way for this trip. The air today is dry and warm and clear again. I have been blessed with good weather throughout this road trip; except for that one day in Montana and Idaho, and that other day in Arizona, with the Grand Canyon blizzard, its been mostly smooth driving weather, and good, clear roads. Im sitting here listening to the wind in the trees and the highway noises, just being still for a moment, before resuming the drive. I wont try to get any further than St. Louis tonight; and maybe Ill stop in a small town again, and find another good small-town hotel. Even the national chain hotels are nicer in the small towns.
Ive been listening, for my morning spiritual exercises and contemplation, as I drive, to Pema Chödrön and Caroline Myss audiobook CDs. I am hungry for this knowledge, but even more for the reminders these teachers bring me: reminders of things I already know, but need support to remember. Once I get back to Beloit, my life will go back to not being my own. I will go back to serving Dads needs first, and working my own needs in around the cracks. There is a pleasure and freedom when Im on the road, of being beholden to no-one, of having to do things only for myself, of not having to be anywhere at a scheduled time, of being able to take care of just my owns needs and desires. Theres a joy in service, its true, but theres an equal joy in respite, and self-care, and aimless wandering. This is a freedom I treasure, as long as it lasts.
The lesson of yesterdays disturbing events is that, no matter where you go, you might be called upon to exercise your gifts in the service of others, and of place: if you encounter a dark place, your job might be to lighten it, or clear it; then move on. Its the Wanderer archetype: a drifter who comes into town, meets people, helps them, changes the place for the better, then eventually moves on. The Wanderer doesnt settle down permanently, but everyplace he goes, he leaves a mark, a memory of service, and change. There are people whose lives we touch, that we dont even know weve touched, but who will be healed, or changed, or helped, just be our being there. The Wanderer is often content to be invisible: to not need recognition or praise or thanks; though those are always nice, if they come, theyre not expected or required.
And every so often, even after I get back to Wisconsin, I will be able to take a vacation from caregiving. Even though Im tired, physically, after all this journeying, Im in a better place mentally and emotionally, than I was when I left. I needed this break, and the experiences Ive had, the people Ive met, the photos Ive taken, the music Ive played, will serve to feed me for months to come. Actually, I feel changed by this trip in some deep, permanent ways I cant quite articulate; things are different, and Im different. Going away, coming back, the world has changed, and looks rearranged. In another six months to a year, Ill take another trip, Dads health and strength permitting, and go off on my own again, and feed my soul again, and my art, as I have throughout this trip. The major stress this trip was that of moving, of packing and shipping my belongings home from Pinole. The next time I visit Pinole, I wont have to deal with any of that, and I hope Ill have the freedom to just be a traveler, a visitor, a guest, and a friend. And the truck will only have in it that which I want to take with me, to make my music and art, as I travel, along the way.
Yesterday, I began to think about new music to record with Stick. Just plug it in to the laptop, very simply, and play something. If I wasnt so physically tired, Id do that every few nights, in some hotel. When I get home, Ill do my best to find that mood again, that inner music that arises when Im in that mental space, and record something; eventually, if not immediately.
Okay, back to driving. And the journey continues.
562. 21 February 2007, at a truckstop, sunset, Sayre, OK
Judgment, judgment, judgment. A bad day in Earthschool. A bad night in a bad hotel, with worry on top of it. Then, a morning street meeting with a shady character possibly trying to sell me a rough diamond, probably an illegal diamond. Distinct psi-vampire overtones to the encounter.
I spent the first part of todays drive listening to Pema Chödröns CD Comfortable With Uncertainty, and gaining a great deal of insight and calm. These things that test us are designed to bring out our compassion, to open our hearts, and make room in them even for those things we dislike. Every bad or shady encounter is an opportunity to practice tonglen and forgiveness and compassionate lovingkindness. Im having mixed results, late in the day, now, and I know tomorrow will be a better day. Ive spent a great deal of time, while driving, dealing with the challenging emotions, and banishing the bonds of connection that I dont want, coming to detachment with compassion. Its been a challenge. A purgation, as well.
Later, El Reno, OK:
On the minus side: I drove ten hours today, and Im beat; I had a bad day in Earthschool, a day of difficult emotions and encounters.
On the plus side: My knee hurts less than it has in over a week; still a twinge of pain, but not screaming, not debilitating. Also, despite having a day of difficult emotions, my mind feels clear and alert, even if my body is tired. The benefit, perhaps, of meditating while driving. These Buddhist teachings are giving me great benefit, at this stage of my life. I dont know if Id have any grounding, and calm at all, without them to fall back on, these days.
I am treating myself to a much better hotel, tonight. Last nights shitty hotel experience was enough of that for the rest of this journey. Im in a very good hotel, accommodating to travelers: Ethernet cable and power sockets right at the desk area, so plug in and Im online. I walked over to the Pizza Hut next door and got a small pizza, a real full meal after what seems like days of crap, bad road-food, and too much fast-food. Ive drank more caffeinated pop these past few weeks than in the previous several years combined. Any fast-food is too much, these days; but I can pick and choose what I eat, somewhat, and so survive, even if Id rather be grilling a steak for myself over my own stove.
I spent most of the evening writing, reading, resting, catching up on email and phone calls, and I just finished revising some poems, and doing a little re-writing of some essays. Its time for sleep, and I feel tired enough, after todays 10-hour marathon drive, to sleep well. I plan to spend a little time sightseeing tomorrow, instead of ramming through another long days drive. But I dont regret pushing it, today: I got across the rest of New Mexico, across the Texas panhandle, and to here.
Driving on Hwy. 40, east of Amarillo, there was a huge white concrete cross by the road, next to a low church building, which looked rather like the highway rest-stop buildings hereabouts; at the foot of the cross, in a circle, were several black metal Roman-style crucifixes, lying like spiritual caltrops on the ground, to trip up the feet of the unwary, or the ungodly. An looking all too much like the ranch fencing that Matthew Shepards crucified body was found on, outside Laramie, WY, after he was killed for being gay. A shocking contrast: the veneration of instruments of torture. Genuinely creepy; so of course I took a photo as I sailed by at speed.
Lets just say: Im glad not to have to stay in that part of Texas tonight, even if Oklahoma is still the Bible Belt. Those spiky crucifixes lying at the foot of that huge white cross looked all too much like the fencing in Wyoming that Matthew Shepard was killed on. I doubt these fundamentalists would remotely understand the irony of Matthew Shepard hung on the cross, a modern-day Christ-like figure, crucified for their sins of malice and hatred. Have we risen so much higher than the beasts, after all, or no? No answer would suffice: best to just drive on, keep a low profile, and get the hell out of Dodge.
561. 20 February 2007, Albuquerque, NM
Despite the weather forecast for more snow, the was sky bright and clear all day. Ive been watching the Weather Channel every night, in each successive hotel as I travel, and there is constant alarm about the next major winter storms. But I seem to be traveling ahead of the wavedriving along, surfing on the edge of the low-pressure systemand I have had nothing but clear, even warm, often cloudless weather. In the afternoon, little fluffy clouds came marching in rows across the sky.
In the morning I drove by the San Francisco Peaks, visible from everywhere in town, which I had driven through the night before, in the blizzard and the icy roads. So peaceful this clear morning, so bright with snow cover, to have caused me such fear in the night. Thats just the way it goes.
I drove to Meteor Crater, just west of Flagstaff, and spent an hour time there. Its not only a meteor site, but a geology center, and also a site where the original astronauts trained: there is a memorial Wall of Fame for the astronauts there. The crater is 600 feet deep and 4000 feet wide, and a magnificent hole in the ground. I decided not to take the walking tour, though, because of my sore knee; Im limping badly today, maybe because of exerting myself at the Canyon yesterday. This is the high Arizona desert, arid and stark, with not much growing. From the lip of the observation post above the crater, you can see lots of nothing, the white-capped tops of the San Francisco Peaks (the only mountains on the horizon now), and black dots of cattle grazing the redlands around the crater.
I spent most of the afternoon at Petrified Forest National Monument, and the Painted Desert. I drove down to the south end of the Park, past Holbrook, where there is a lot of marvelously tacky Route 66 memorabilia still present, including that famous hotel where the rooms are assembled in two rows of separated concrete tipis; Ive seen at least two movies where scenes were shot at this hotel.
I also stopped at a major commercial place, where they sell petrified rocks, other bits of geology, and every kind of tourist junk. The room is so large, it has an open koi pond in it, with a waterfall, and logs of petrified wood as seating places around the pond. An abundance of geologic beauty, all very expensive; but had I the wealth, I would not hesitate to buy a large sliced log-round, and place it above a fireplace mantle.
Then I drove up through the Park, south to north, along the park road, stopping often to see features, as the afternoon wore on. Its beautiful geology under stark skies, empty plains full of spectacularly-colored rocks, all very stark. That austere desert beauty. I stopped numerous times to stand in the wind and the silence, little puffy clouds moving overhead, making shapes of light and shadow on the painted layers of rock stretching out across the desert.
In other areas, the dry brown prairie grasses stretched to the horizon, laid down in the wind, with huge black and red, broken, scattered petrified logs standing high in their midst. Whole regions of exposed strata, with logs lying open. A winding stream choked with exposed agatized wood lying where the water would flow during a flood.
Sheer cliffs with tree-trunks sticking out of them like bizarre sandboxes invented by some surrealist child. The road through the park winds up and down miniature badlands, and one region looks very similar to the Badlands in South Dakota, except there are these petrified logs lying like the detritus of hurricanes bunched into the miniature canyons, and on the outwash floors.
Ravens by the wayside, for the second day in a row. Two days of ravens, each time a pair waiting by the roadside. Todays pair were clearly looking for a food handout. Yesterdays pair clearly were not; taking shelter from the stiff cold wind and snow, perhaps, but with a dignity and calm that was trans-human.
petroglyphs in the eye of a raven
dark glittering eyes
old knowledge emergent from stone
and re-emergent from a ravens black shimmering eye
At the north end of the park, there are high cliff overlooks that look out over the Painted Desert. The day was clear enough that I could see the tops of the San Francisco Peaks off to the west, 120 miles away.
Nearby, where historical Route 66 used to go through this area, there is a historical marker that I thought was very clever and artistic: the tailpiece of a 1950s car, complete with bumper and lights, and the license plate reads Route 66. Nearby, a rusting hulk of a 1930s runabout lies in the grass and sun. Thats all there is, though: the asphalt of the old road has long since been torn up and re-used to make new roads. I think this was a very smart way to commemorate the old road, though; somebody had a sense of humor, as well as some artistic smarts. The old Route 66 road winds around Hwy. 40, so the past few days, and today, I am driving along a historical route. When Im done with this trip, I can honestly say I have driven most of the entire length of historic Route 66.
As I left Petrified Forest in the late afternoon, and headed towards Gallup, Grants, and Albuquerquewith a golden sunset at GallupI thought to myself: Thats it. Thats all the National Parks Ill be doing for this trip. The next few days are just going to be driving days. No more visits to friends. The long days driving are not something Im looking forward to: sitting on my ass for a long time, not able to stretch my bad knee too often, staring at the road, not doing anything but driving. But I do get a lot of thinking done on those long driving days; and I do like to listen to books on CD, as I drive. I guess I need to find more audiobook CDs to listen to.
Tonight, Im in an old hotel on Central Ave. in ABQ. A rundown relic of the past glory of the Route 66 days. This isnt the best place, and I probably should have taken a more modern hotel, up the road. At first they put me in a smokers room, which I objected to because it made my allergies go crazy; then they moved me to another room, which isnt so bad. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you need. I have a bit of a headache, nevertheless. Well, Ill get out here quickly in the morning, and go down the street to a restaurant I know from when I lived in New Mexico, that has great food, and free WiFi. Ill have a leisurely breakfast of good, solid food, and do my email that Im not able to do tonight; this is the only hotel that Ive been in, this trip, that doesnt have free wireless internet.
560. 19 February 2007, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
I got up so early this morning, planning to drive to the Grand Canyon for the day, that I lost sleep. I stopped for a half-hour nap, later; just pulled over and snored for a few minutes by the roadside a half-hour from the Canyon. The sky this morning was silver with snow curtains over the hills to the east, backlit by bright sunlight. There were tall hills very near to town, and the train tracks go by right behind the hotel. I checked out of the hotel, took some photos, got breakfast and gas, and hit the road.
All morning, the highway climbed in altitude, putting a strain on the engine, the truck being fully-loaded. Signs at the roadside marked 4000 feet, 5000 feet, 6000 feet in altitude, all gradually rising to the Canyon and the Flagstaff area, which are around 7000 feet in altitude. So, I went from mere feet above sea level two days ago to spending most of the day at around 7000 feet; I had some serious altitude sickness at times, when I was walking around exerting myself, and shortness of breath if I was hiking very far from the truck.
I got to the Canyon before noon, and while it was mostly sunny outside, in the Canyon itself, clouds were moving. Its a geographic feature thats large enough to have its own weather system; and down in the Canyon itself, it can be 20 or 30 degrees warmer than it is up on the rim, simply because of the altitude change. The rim is mountainous Arizona weather, high mountain climate, while the river is much nearer to sea-level. Someday Id like to go down into the canyon, maybe ride the mules down, and spend some time there, to experience life inside the Canyon.
I spent much of the day taking photos, and driving around. My knee is bothering me, and the sudden change in altitude is making me short of breath, and its actually very cold out in the wind, whenever I get out near the Rim, to take photos. The clouds and snow-veils moving through the Canyon obscure and reveal both nearby outcrops and the distant North Rim. The wind is strong and often fierce, especially near the Rim. Bundling up tight, the wind still gets into your ears, and down your neck.
At one overlook, a very close encounter with a raven pair. They were just perched there on the lip of the Rim, sheltering from the wind and ice and snow, not really interested in the humans who looked at them with surprise and awe. (I wasnt the only person taking their portraits.) Huge black birds, with obsidian eyes and shiny feathers, bunched against the wind. A totemic moment.
I drove partway out towards the east highway on the South Rim road. Not all the way, because the weather is very changeable. I pulled over earlier, on the western leg of the South Rim road, in the area labeled on the maps as the Abyssso you know I had to go see itand as I was sitting there, the snow veils move closer until I was enveloped by a blizzard of pellet-type snowtechnically very small hail. Out of the pure white nothingness came peals of rolling thunder. Later, I drove back on steep, slick, winding roads along the Rim, back to the Village, in a full blizzard, the roads icing up, and the windshield wipers going full speed. I crept back, gripping the wheel, mortally afraid of skidding into the ditch, or over the Canyon edgeguardrails are often arbitrarily placed or missing, in these Western stateswith a big SUV tailgating me. I spent an hour in the Village general store, having a snack, and wondering if the weather would get so bad that I might not be able to drive to Flagstaff for the night; certainly no hotels at the Canyon itself would rooms on this holiday weekend. Even though its Monday, there have been many families here, complete with little kids, because of the holiday; so the Park has been busy, and full of people.
Later, Flagstaff, AZ:
Im upset tonight, and finding it hard to sleep. Some of that is the godsforsaken ridiculousness of having to drive through not one but two blizzards today, the latter one at dusk, under failing light, at high latitudes, right alongside major precipices, on badly-iced and snowed-over roads, with only occasional guardrails, and a fully-loaded truck. Even with my snow tires, I slid around a few times on icy patches, or inching down hills that were also very curvy. Not my favorite type of driving: very stressful, very tiring. I made a mistake, and took the highway that goes directly from the crossroads south of the Canyon, to Flagstaff; but that highway is in poor shape, very bumpy in spots, and is essentially the road that goes through the parklands and national forests around the San Francisco Peaks north of town. It would have been better to drive down to the interstate, and go into Flag that way. I got into the windy hills before it was too late to turn back, and then it began to snow again, and the light was failing, and I was already tired from the long day, and being in that first blizzard at the Canyon itself.
I am also worried about moneymy big weakness, my big area of vulnerability, my big irrational fear zone. I cant help it, even when I know its ridiculous: it upsets me, still. I am still coming to grips with this, and probably will be for this entire lifetime. It was once intuited to be a karmic debt or lesson of some kind. So be it. At the moment, though, Im sick of the pattern continually recycling, and want nothing more than to break all of these horrible and boring patterns around the topic. Im running out of money, and I have to rush home now, and dont have money or time now to go down into Texas, or stop and visit people in New Mexico; and I regret that, but its all I can do to get home, now. I still have a full week of long days of driving, to be able to get back to Wisconsin; and I plan to stop for a night in Chicago first, for business reasons.
So, Im in high-latitude Arizona, tonight, sleepless. I got very chilled a couple of times at the Canyon, getting out to take pictures in the cold and windy afternoon. I turned on the motel room heater full blast to warm up, when I first checked in, I was so cold. I am running out of time and money to sustain this voyage. So, I will start to head home. Rather than be able to meet other people I wanted to meet, I now must head more directly home. Ill stop in a couple more Parks, and do more photography along the way; but the social aspect of this road trip is largely done, now, and must be set aside. Someday again, though, Ill be on the road, more leisurely, less stressed, and I will be able to stop and see many more people, as I travel. It will just have to wait till next trip, thats all.
559. 18 February 2007, Kingman, AZ
I had a pleasant morning with Emmett and Yuta Chapman over coffee and orange juice, we sat and talked about lots of things before I left. They also showed me some new materials and projects around the shop. All in all, a very pleasant visit. Yes, I had a cup of coffee, with lots of cream and sugar in it. I normally cant stand coffee, maybe once every two years, but this was good, and with lots of cream in it, excellent. It left me very wired, too.
I got on the highway, and did the northern bypass route around LA, using highways 134 and 210 to get to Hwy. 10 bound for Joshua Tree. Traffic was heavy but always flowing on a warm, slightly hazy Sunday morning.
Wind turbine generators at Palm Springs, rotating in the steady breezes that blow up the valley, from Los Angeles. You can see these from the Keyes overlook inside Joshua Tree, as well as the Salton Sea, and the torn suture of the San Andreas Fault.
I spent the afternoon at Joshua Tree National Monument, which has become a familiar as well as favorite place, having camped there several times these recent years.
I stopped numerous times, taking photos of the mountains and landscapes; one of my goals this trip is to get lots of photos of snow-capped mountains, desert mountains, etc.: the tall trails of inspiration and aspiration. I walked through the chollo cactus forest this time, without getting stung by bees, as had happened when I was here 7 months ago when the swarms were active in the hot summeralthough one lone bee did buzz me, just to say hello.
There were swarms of tourists, though, this being a holiday weekend; all the scenic spots and overlooks were full of people, and there were groups of rock-climbers with their gear-backpacks all over the Hidden Valley area. The campgrounds were all full, and full cars and RVs dominated what little traffic there is, in the Park. On the way in, I met that same park ranger (Adrienne) I had given my Basin & Range DVD to last summer, as I passed through; she remembered me right away, which was fun, and we chatted for a moment.
I zipped over to Hidden Valley to take new photos of some of my favorite rock formations, under the changing daylight. Same places, but with new lighting. Every time you visit a place like this, its all new, as the light is constantly changing, and the season, and time of day. Nonetheless, I have photographed this region several times, by now, and still I always find it fascinating and beautiful, and I discover new nooks and crannies Ive never been into before.
I crawled through some narrow spaces in the rocks, my bad knee hurting somewhat, and found angles of rock and light I hadnt seen before; then, crawling out, saw still more fresh vistas: angles of light, arched holes where eroding rocks have fallen together, framing the far distance. I can feel the higher altitude affecting my breathing; I breathed hard at times, when I was climbing through the gaps, or otherwise strongly exerting myself.
Then I exited the Park via the 29 Palms road, and up the back two-lane highways to arrive at Hwy 40. I caught a spectacular sunset from north of 29 Palms, then drove for a couple of hours after nightfall, arriving at last here in Kingman, where I found a clean, cheap motel. Its right next to the train tracks; the trains dont bother me, I find them soothing. The vibrations as they pass by periodically are a pleasant sound; this is the famous Santa Fe Railway line, the major rails between the Midwest and Los Angeles, and trains go by regularly. I am sitting and writing, now, at night, catching up on email, and going to take a shower in a little bit. I drove about 400 miles today, a long day.
One other thing worth mentioning is that all the hotels I have stayed at so far on this road trip have had wireless internet connections; so I can be in my room, with my laptop, and be online, most evenings and mornings. Its the latest standard in travel amenities; 20 years ago, when the hotels advertised their latest innovations in making your stay a pleasure, it was remote control TV, and salad bars in every restaurant. Now, its high-speed WiFi and spas.
Tomorrow I plan to get up early and go to the Grand Canyon, spending most of the day there at the canyon. I will probably stay in Flagstaff for the night, then do a couple of more national parks the next day. After that, I will start the serious and focused work of long-distance driving on back to Wisconsin. I dont expect to able to visit Texas, after all, or some of the other people I had thought I would have time to visit on this journey. Plans do change, and it took me more time and effort and expense, in California, than I had thought it might. Thats just the way it works out, sometimes. My priorities now are that I need to focus most on the photography, and less on the social visits. There will be other road trips, and other occasions to meet people, after all.
Im very tired, tonight, but feeling good. It was a good visit to Joshua Tree: short, but rewarding. The Park there is beginning to feel like one of my home-places, that I am most comfortable staying in. I feel so at home there, after several visits. I really love camping there, and on another trip I will camp there again.
It was hot in the sun today. I wanted to go shirtless, but I just switched to a tank top. In a parking lot at 29 Palms, a shirtless boy on a bike, relic of the hot sunny day, quickly glimpsed, then gone.
558. 17 February 2007, Woodland Hills, CA
Tomorrow, my sister flies back to her home and husband in Holland, leaving our father alone in Wisconsin. I am starting my drive back tomorrow, and should get there in about a week, if all goes well.
Yesterday, I got an oil change for the truck in Paso Robles; then B. and B. and I spent the day shopping, eating, and chatting. Later in the evening, Mr. E. and his girlfriend arrived, and we all stayed up late for the second night in a row, talking, laughing, catching up on our lives, and drinking. Glenfiddich is still the best Scotch in the world, in my opinion; smooth as silk.
I left Paso Robles at noon today, and drove down Hwy. 101 to Los Angeles. It was hot and clear the whole way: a nice warm California day. I didnt stop hardly at all, as I wanted to arrive here in a timely fashion, for dinner. I just stopped to stretch my legs a few times, but I did get some good photos of the mountains around Santa Barbara and Ventura. I remember the first time I drove this way, and slept in the truck by the shore, just outside Ventura.
I arrived at Stick Enterprises tonight in time for us all to go out to dinner at a lovely restaurant on Ventura Blvd. called Toast. Toast, as in champagne, not as in singed bread. Emmett Chapman and Don Schiff and I jammed on Sticks and Dons new bowed guitar for well over an hour. I admit I lost track of time. We covered a lot of musical terrain, changes musical directions often during the extended jam, and more than once I closed my eyes and got lost in the music. We thought to record it only later, but I had a great time jamming, and I felt like I was in the music, and held my own. They both said they really liked it, too. I had planned to find a cheap hotel, but the Chapmans, ever the hospitable hosts, invited me to sleep on their spare futon, so I gratefully accepted. I am sitting here writing, to catch up on the days thoughts.
I spent much of the day listening to the road mix CD Alex made for me back in Portland, including parts o the soundtrack to Whale Rider, which I listened to two or three times. A perfect blend of Maori music with techno-synth soundscapes: ancient and modern blending together beautifully.
Yesterday in Paso Robles I bought the new John Dowland CD recorded by Sting, which Im pleased to say is a really good album. Sting writes that he has been haunted by Dowlands music for decades, and of course I feel the same way. Few composers have been so repeatedly able to get under my skin as Dowland. From his dark, despairing moods to his nimble and clever ones, he was a master composer, and within his Elizabethan tradition, he was an innovator. This is a good album, just modern enough in style and arrangement to be fresh, while at the same time true to the performance practice of Dowlands original time, with most arrangements featuring voice and two lutes. I will listen to this CD many times again, along this road journey, and after. I plan to write an album review, after a few more listens.
I also spent a great deal of time yesterday downloading and organizing photos from the first half of this trip, onto my new external USB hard-drive. (Amazingly small and quiet, no bigger than a slim cigarette case, sleek black, and unobtrusive.) There are more photos to download later, as I try to catch up with everything I have photographed on this trip so far. I have also been shooting with my old camera, as well as the new: mostly grabshots while driving the car, shots of the road, and the surrounding landscapes, which I might later compile into a photomontage of views out the trucks windshield: a sequence of roads, some terrifying and precipitous, others simply bland and flat. Trips. The many moods of the traveled highway. Another project for later, for when I get back to Beloit and have settled in there.
557. 16 February 2007, Paso Robles, CA
I took all day to drive down the coastal highway, Highway One, stopping many times. I began by visiting Robinson Jeffers home in Carmel, Tor House; it was closed to the public today, its only open on Fridays and Saturdays, but I talked to a Foundation volunteer, and they let stand in the driveway and soak it all in.
Carmel became a very desirable very expensive place to live not long after Jeffers died; most of the people I saw hiking the narrow town streets in the morning light, or walking their dogs, were at least in their sixties or older; all very fit, of course, but still it felt like a wealthy retirement community.
Carmel seems purely residential; a few schools, and a community building, but no malls, no corner stores or pubs; just hundreds of million-dollar homes.
Tor House is an oasis of artistic groundedness surrounded by aliens: aliens because their preoccupations occupy a completely different universe than Jeffers, in this place he built, and where he wrote all his great works. I wonder if the people who cluster around him now, in their fancy mansions, here in Carmel, have even read his works, or know who he was.
I continued on down Highway One after this admiring visit to the poets home-place. The day was warm and sunny, with a light sea breeze. More than once, stepping out to stretch my sore legssore after all the hauling and carrying and bending of movingit was warm enough to want to take off my shirt, at least. The sunsparkle off the sea was intense, and I got a little sunburn on my face, by days end.
The point of land around Little Sur was shrouded in cloud-fog, and cold, by contrast; the tops of the coastal mountains covered in quickly-moving mists, looking very Welsh, very ancient.
Then the fog cleared up again for the rest of the day, and I stopped several times around the Big Sur parks.
Notably, I also stopped at the Henry Miller Library, which is rather more of a memorial bookstore, memento display, and memorial gallery. Ive never been all that impressed by Millers writings, but the man himself had presence, and an effect on his times; the small former cabin tucked into a bend of the highway was full of history. A funky place, with funky artwork on the grounds, and a good selection of books within.
I also stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is a small pocket park with a few trails, an inaccessible sea-coast cove, and only a few small campsites.
But the beauty of the place was stunning, and there is a waterfall that perpetually runs off the cliff above the azure and turquoise waters of the untouched cove: a place so inaccessible, but viewed from above, there were no human footprints to mark the pristine sand.
Waterfall, cove, rocks, and sand make a perfect postcard scene so primordial, so pristine, its a rare glimpse of what this coast all looked like before humans came to hunt, and play, and build their homes here, and stay on. Its one of the few places along the coast that shows no signs of human interference, as pristine as the centuries before we arrived here.
In the other direction from the trail where you can view the cove, there is another hidden cove, facing north. I looked out over the edge of it, and below me there was a circling turkey vulture, looking and acting very much like its larger cousin, the California condor. I immediately over the other tourists who were there, and we all watched the large bird circle up the thermals and away. They had seen a condor not too long ago; not here, but there have been condors sighted here before.
As the afternoon wore on, I began to get tired, but the sun was still warm, and I was listening to a spiritual book on CD about the archetypes, as I drove.
These long days driving are good for me; I come back to center, I can hear myself think, and I get a lot of good integrative thinking done.
After a last series of furiously winding tight curves, the road opens out onto the rolling bovine-ranged hills of Sam Simeon and Cambria. The old Hearst mansion looms on a tree-covered precipice above the hills at San Simeon, perched like a feudal manor sucking the life out of the peasants working the range below.
I stopped at Cambria and went down to the beach, to spend time there saying goodbye to the Pacific Ocean, which I dont know when Ill see again. I feel very connected to this Ocean, and leaving it brought tears to my eyes. I stayed till the sun went down, being silent off my myself although there were other people around, and taking photographs of the waves, the flock of seagulls, and a couple of surfers emerging from the darkening sea. The water is cold, so they wear wetsuits here, and the waves were only mid-sized, so they werent doing spectacular surfer tricks, but the movement of dark handsome bodies in the water was enlivening to behold.
A few quiet moments by myself, with the waters; then I drove over the hills to Paso Robles, and dinner.
556. 15 February 2007, Seaside/Monterey, CA
Unexpectedly, in the early morning, I am lifted up into the White Light. For an eternal moment, I can perceive nothing but white light. It lasts a long tie, and no time at all. This is I think the third time I have been given this particular vision. Eventually, I come back to myself, and I am sitting on the edge of my bed, my spine elongated, my entire being vibrating like a plucked harp string.
The feeling, and the light, lingers, just below the surface of my thoughts, as I shower and prepare to go about my day. I feel wide open and vulnerable, but not unsafe, rather protected, cocooned by the light. A sheath of light visible around my arms and hands.
This vision leaves me physically weak, as it has before; as though I have just run a marathon, glowing with vibrant, ecstatic health. Dont look for reasons. This vision, as before, just happens, I couldnt tell you why. Its not a reward for anything. It does serve to balance out the darker feelings Ive had the past few days, in my striving to move my belongings to Wisconsin. Still, dont assume theres a connection: dont make up a story where there is none. The real story is that the vision comes when it comes, given to me as purely a gift, with no strings attached. And I am grateful.
Thank You. I am still vibrating.
I choose to take it as a timely reminder that this level of reality exists, and has existed, and always will exist, no matter how cut up in my personal crises I get, or my petty worries and personal problems. The light is always there, no matter where I am.
555. 14 February 2007, Seaside/Monterey, CA
Note: I wrote out this days events three times, in different ways, because I was trying to capture everything. This is was a very important, memorable day, full of deep feeling, art-making, and encounters with wildlife and the energies of the places I spent time at. I am still ringing with it all. So, well all just have to put up with a little redundancy.
The smell of the sea lingered on my skin all day, till I showered,
since I had taken off my shirt and shoes to make serpentine the way,
in the waves under the gaze of a rock full of cormorants,
and the golden eye of the heron stalking the tide-pools.
Iodine and rotting seaweed and salty sun: I smell them still,
having spent most of the day in the sun and wind and surf,
mist of spray blown inland from the waves by the hard wind,
coating everything with salt fog. I climbed down to the sacred archway,
the gate between inland and ocean. There I took off my shoes
and waded in the surf, seeking the perfect stone.
After that excellent breakfast at the Brazilian restaurant in Santa Cruz, we went up to Pescadero, and beachcombed for an hour before B. had to get back to Santa Cruz. I found a dreamstone, flat and rough, but with a perfect circle in its exact center. I remember how back in school, some mathematician had once lectured that there are no perfect circles in nature; obviously, he was wrong. We also found shells and little beautifully-polished stones. B. knows a lot about tide-pools, and the creatures who inhabit them, while I know much more about the geology of places like this: the ophioltic sequence, with the crushed and crumbled sedimentary sequence layered on top of it.
After B. left, I went up to the archway under the promontory, my first and still favorite place at Pescadero. The sea had retreated to its lowest tide level, since it was new moon, and I could walk all the way through the arch to the rocky sand areas and the boulders that I had never been able to visit before. The sun was warm and I took my shoes and shirt off while I built a new landscape art piece. A serpentine spiral of stones on their ends, some egg-shaped, some dreamstones, laid in a curved pattern between inlaid boulders.
At one point, prompted by some inner intuition, I looked up and out, and on the rocks where the sea-lions usually lie, there were a dozen shore-birds standing and watching me; among the cormorants, standing rooted, off to one side: a great blue heron. I took several photos, of course. Then I climbed up to the top of the cliff, and took more photos.
This place is sacred to me, and I opened myself to the eye and heart of the ocean, and stood with arms spread on the high cliff, feeling the light and wind enter me, and fill me. I opened my eyes, and directly below me was the great blue heron, working the tide-pools; moving slowly, stalking the pools for crabs and small fish. A magic vision for a sacred moment. I felt the heart of the ocean in me, and we were one.
Then I drove back down Highway One, stopping briefly at the Pigeon Point lighthouse to take some photos; a busfull of schoolchildren had been at Pescadero when I was there, and here they were again, looking at the rocks exposed by the low tide; several waves at me as I drove by, and I waved back.
On a whim, I turned into Santa Cruz, and took my time to do a little drive-by sightseeing of this very pretty town by the bay. I went down to the scenic road along the shoreline, past a charter school, to the park with a surfers museum and bronze statue. many private homes along the road, with special windows and walkways for viewing the ocean; no doubt, very expensive homes. Then, driving past surfers riding the low waves, lots of folks out in the nice warm weather of the day, and then to downtown where theres an amusement park with a midway, and lots of small stores. I thought about stopping, but I was just wanting a leisurely sight-seeing drive. The climate here is very Mediterranean, I understand, and the architecture and parks reflect a leisurely outdoor lifestyle.
I spent many hours at Pescadero at midday today, at low tide. I made a piece of landscape art, the most recent of the Serpentine/Waterline series. It was warm and I wanted to be naked in the surf, but there were people around, so I just took off my shirt and shoes. I built a serpentine henge. Some of the rocks were dreamstones, others were serpentine, the California state rock, the stone itself.
Then I drove down the coast, feeling emptied out by the sun and wind, and the crashing of the waves.
The rocky beach at Pescadero: when the waves crash in, they knock the rounded stones together, and the clank and clatter and ring like bowling pins. When the undertow pulls the wave back out, the sand hisses and the rocks clatter more, all at the same time. Its a sound that combines the hissing of retreating waves with the clanking and knocking together of billiard balls, or huge ice-blocks. Many of the large round stones are made of dense, small-crystal minerals, so they resonate like the resonant stones that used to be played in the ancient Imperial Court in China. Musical bells and chimes made out of jade, slate, ultra-mafic ocean stones.
Driving through downtown Santa Cruz on a whim, I wandered along the ocean view road. Surfers in the waves. beach volleyball with shirtless jocks. Past a special high school getting out, the students all wandering home after their own fashions, some of skateboards or bicycles.
I stopped at other spots along the shore for photos, then drove on to Monterey. I reached Seaside, the town next to Monterey, and decided Id had enough for one day. Im still recovering from all the moving work. My knee, which I injured a few days ago, after which I had to carry many 35 pound boxes to the shipping place, and to the truck and backmy knee has been aching all day, and nothing helps. I seriously hurt it, Im afraid. Walking on the uneven beach sand and stones all morning didnt help much, either. So, Id had enough. I found a hotel room, bargaining them down in price somewhat, checked my email, then I drove out to the shore on Monterey, for the sunset. Pink skies with wind-swept trees shaped like bonsai.
The ceaseless waves. I drove back, found a grocery store, then made dinner for myself in my room, after showering. The smell of the sea was still on my skin and hair, after so many hours in that wind and mist blown off the waves. I had a quiet, solitary evening, then watched a little TV and wrote and read. Now, I can barely keep my eyes open. I am sleeping deeply these past few nights, worn out by my exertions, and their physical and also emotional costs. I also downloaded all of the days photos into my external hard drive, to archive them and free up the memory cards for more photography tomorrow.
Tomorrow, my only plan is to visit Tor House, then wander down the coast, then inland to Paso Robles. I plan to stop many times, and take my time, taking many photos. I have all day to go only a little ways.
554. 14 February 2007, Pescadero, CA
great eye of the blue heron
catches my eye and lingers in mind
Driving here this morning from Santa Cruz, many hawks are in the air; a kestrel stooping from a fencepost; a pair of fence-ravens sitting on posts.
I made a Serpentine piece here, as the tide was out, and the sand was still covering the floor of the arch, and the rocks seaward of it. Later in the year, storms will scour out the arch, and the rocks will stand higher against the ocean. It was warm and sunny, and I took off my shoes and socks and shirt while I worked. On a large rock out in the surf, many birds stood and watched me build my art. Under the eyes of cormorants. Then a great blue heron, in the pools at the surfline.
oceanheart open to my heart
standing on the cliffs in the light
overlooking the sea, arms spread to catch the wind
asking for oceanheart to fill me and sustain me
arms spread, shaping wind
I open my eyes and below me is the great blue heron,
slowly stalking the tide-pools
553. 14 February 2007, Santa Cruz, CA
After a late night talking and drinking and eating an unusual Chinese dinnera Chinese-regional-style dinner but done gourmet style with local ingredientsIve had a quiet morning. I slept in a little, wanting nothing but silence. Its a sunny-misty day: no clouds, but a little fog rolling in from the sea. My poet friend B. took me to a Brazilian restaurant on Highway One for breakfast; I had a marvelous dish of breakfast in a bowl: spicy potato chunks deep-fried to crispy perfection, and scrambled eggs and strips of juicy, tender beef layered on a sliced baguette. Everything you could want for breakfast, all in one meal, and delicious to boot.
552. 13 February 2007, Santa Cruz, CA
An evening discussion among poetsfriends whove known each other for some time, meeting for the first time face to faceabout all things mythopoetic, musical, artistic, and creative, well-lubricated with Laphoaig, one of my favorite Scotch whiskeys.
I had a hard day of it. I had the truck all loaded up today, wanting very much to depart. But there was too much weight in the truck: it was scraping bottom, riding way too low to be safe, even with the new repairs to the suspension and shocks. I had a panic attack, so I called my sister back in Wisconsin for some level-headed advice and perspective. We agreed that I had to unpack and ship more boxes, to lighten the load; so I drove over to FedEx, unpacked the truck in front of their store, and shipped 11 more boxes, almost 400 pounds of books and belongings, after the 13 already shipped back to Wisconsin earlier in the week. Then I re-packed the truck, and hit the road; but already the day was late, and the sun was lowering, and all this delayed my departure for several hours.
It was also an unplanned, additional, enormous expenditure of funds; but then, thats what funds are for: for when you need them. I panicked, I really did; I had a full-blown attack, which left me tired and shaking; of course, I hadnt eaten all day, which contributed. Then, after panicking, with a little help from Pams ideas, I found my voice of calm again, and got to work, and got it done, then took off. Only an hour left before sunset. A hot sunny day, at least; it would have been much worse re-packing the truck if it had been raining, as it had been all week prior to my departure. The truck is still riding low, but at least its not scraping bottom with every curb or driveway. I will still have to be cautious, on the road, but I cant afford to ship anything more boxes. Im spent, on all levels. This was a draining, exhausting day. There are still a few things to ship to myself, that I left in my room, along with some more money for J. to ship the items later on. But then thats it: thats everything: nothing left behind anymore.
By the end of the process, I was done with everything, and just wanted to go, go, go. Get away, get out of here, be gone. Yet, mixed feelings as I drove down Hwy. 800 towards the San Mateo Bridge to cross the Bay: will I ever live here again? and how long will it be till I can come back here again, even to visit. Nostalgia, even as I am just barely leaving. This bittersweet leave-taking, the day before Valentines Day; a festival of dolls, left behind in the windows, as Basho sets out on his road to the interior.
I got to San Mateo at sunset, and turned onto Hwy. 1 in full dark, but it felt so good to be on the road again. And I know this stretch of Hwy. 1 very well: Ive driven it many times. Im glad I came this way, rather than the interstate to Santa Cruz. Its actually a smoother road than much of the rest of the coastal road; less curvaceous, with long stretches where you can get good speed. I made good time, even in the dark. Also, driving over the coastal range on Hwy. 92 is so much smoother, as its only a few long switchback curves, not miles and miles of hairpins at slow speeds. Traffic was light and smooth the whole distance. I knew this road at night well, and felt calm and comfortable driving it. Mist and wind came in off the ocean, though, making the road dim and slick in spots.
Then, dinner and good conversation well into the night with poet friends; friends known online for some time, met in person for the first time. I had a really good time. I ate well, and my appetite was good after the days long exertions. I probably drank too much good whiskey, but then, it was a hard day. It was a good end to a long, hard, tiring day. Now Im here.
Outside in the parking lot, fetching CDs from the car: an owl hooting in the cedars right over my head; and Orion and the Pleiades bright above me; and Im in Santa Cruz, actually on the campus of the University, near the Arboreteum, but its so dark here I can see the Milky Way. Amazing.
river of dreams
milk-white sustenance river:
I repeated my driving chant along the road, after the trauma of departure, the drama of departure:
I forgive and bless every inch of this road.
I forgive and bless every inch of this road.
I forgive and bless every inch of this road.
I forgive and bless every inch of this road.
I forgive and bless every inch of this vehicle.
I forgive and bless every inch of this vehicle.
I forgive and bless every inch of this vehicle.
I forgive and bless every inch of this vehicle.
And we fly on into the night. Im back on the road again, and I feel better already.
551. 11 February 2007, Pinole, CA
After several days of continuous rain, damp, cold, and fog, sunny skies with tall dramatic clouds; its in the 50s today. I sent off several packages to be shipped home, then spent some quiet time at the Bay. Over at Ferry Point and Keller Beach in Point Richmond; beautiful East Bay spots hardly anyone knows about, just us locals. It was quiet and calm, and the sun and air filled my depths, and I got quiet and calm, too. Ive been so stressed the past few days, trying to get everything done, I needed this hour of peace, of doing nothing but looking at the sea, sky, and clouds, that I feel peace all out of proportion to the moments spent seeking it. Im back now, and going to do more packing; but shipping off so many boxes of books is a relief, a literal weight off my back, and my trucks back, that the rest of it now seems more possible to accomplish. Driving back, lots of boys riding bicycles this sunny Sunday afternoon; or walking on the sidewalk, in the warm sunlight.
handsome smiling boy,
sun sparks off jeweled earlobe
crab-apples in bloom
We had a pleasant meal in Emeryville, and I did a little shopping for my own artistic interests. Then J. and I went to Berkeley for an LGBT artists opening event. There, we met some friends I hadnt expected to see on this trip, and we all chatted amicably for awhile. I really enjoyed the event, but I was tired and sore an needed to go home and rest, so we left fairly early. I twisted my bad knee yesterday, hauling heavy boxes around. Then, this morning, J. helped me pack up and ship another dozen boxes back to Beloit. I feel a sense of relief, shipping so much, as I was very worried about being able to pack it all into the truck; now, Im feeling a lot less pressure on that front. Im also glad I got that sunshine outdoors time this afternoon, in between all the stress of moving, packing, shipping, and everything else.
550. 9 February 2007, Pinole, CA
Last night, I wept myself to sleep, overcome with frustration, exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and stuck about getting everything done here that needs to get done, and probably more that I havent even thought of as yet. It was intense, bitter, and short-lived.
My dreams were vivid, visionary. I was given a song, a chant, a drum and mallet; at one point, I was keeping time for a Singer, by drumming the songs in between his chants. Ive had Indian music in my head the rest of the night, and awoken with it still playing, this morning. A drum painted dark red and black and green, the colors of the dark redwood forests in the coastal valleys; and detailed with the colors of the four directions.
And fear: fear of being trapped here, if theres something wrong with the truck; fear of the truck breaking down somewhere, while fully loaded with the detritus of my life; fear of danger or attack to my Faithful Steed, my own ticket out of any situation I dont like or cant handle. Trapping me in a place by cutting off my wings brings me to terror like nothing else these days. Fear that repairs, if any, will be costly, and delay my departure, mess up plans otherwise, put my life on hold, mess things up. Paralyzing, bottomless fear. Fear for no reason; but then, fear is inherently unreasonable.
Well, the truck is going to get some repairs, to the suspension and shock absorbers. Nothing too expensive, fortunately, and the extended warranty will cover most of it, but I am glad to do it now, before loading it up and heading over the mountains.
Yesterday, I drove J. over to Bolinas, on the Marin County shore, to see a client, then I spent time by myself while she was working. It was misty and raining, and we were early, so I stopped several times to take photos from the shoulders of Mt. Tamalpais.
Shoulders of mountains receding into the mists in layers, as though painted by a poet-artist of the Southern Sung Dynasty in ancient China.
I dropped J. off then wandered through what I can only label as third world Marin: sea-weathered shacks next to 3 million dollar mansions, the shacks themselves probably valued at a million just because of their location, no matter how decrepit and run-down they are. I poked around till I found the city beach, then parked and strolled down to the waterline.
I had just barely stepped onto the beach when I looked down, and scattered all around my feet were hundreds of dreamstones: this is another place where the conditions are right for the tide and sand and rock and waves to carve them. I collected a few small stones, but left many and took mostly photographs. The Marin Headlands were lost in the mists past the waves; moody, beautiful, and mystical.
Wandering further down Bolinas Beach, I made two new landscape art pieces, Waterline/Serpentine, by laying small dreamstones in lines on large boulders of serpentine. Huge green-and-white slabs of the state rock of California littering one part of the beach. When I was done, I had to skip back to the beach access, as the tide was coming in, and rising higher up the strand than when I had wandered out.
We had lunch at a nice café in Stinson Beach, then came back over the mountain to San Rafael, where we did a little shopping. Traffic and parking were insanely bad in San Rafael, even for California, and we were relieved to come back over the Bay to Pinole in the late afternoon.
549. 7 February 2007, Pinole, CA
Its a gloomy day. A crow stopped on the telephone pole outside the yard, and bit at the wire a few times, then flew off. The clouds are rolling along in waves; I guess its supposed to rain today or tomorrow. Were planning a beach visit tomorrow, but well see how the weather holds. As long as its not pouring rain, Im up for it; beach time is always good.
Im feeling gloomy: theres too much to do here, and it feels like a time crunch, and I cannot get it all done in time. I have to figure out what to do, and really dive into it, but the daylight hours are few, and Im having a hard time getting going every morning. I just want to sleep, and rest, after all those days of driving; yet, I need to push even harder, now that Im here. Its easy to distract myself, and the general state of disorderly piled up crap everywhere here, isnt helping with that. I guess I need to spend some time cleaning, first, then deciding. Argh.
Flurry of cleaning helps clear the mind. I know that, I just have to remember it, sometimes. So, one flurry of cleaning later, several more boxes packed, about to head out to ship a couple of boxes, do some other errands, and so forth. Then, an evening with friends.
548. 6 February 2007, Pinole, CA
Last dream before waking: I drive out to the edge of the known, to be in the wilderness silence with my thoughts; when I get there, though Im alone, suddenly a young girl appears and sits down near me, but doesnt say anything, or intrude on my solitude. A companionable silence; aware of each others presence, but not intruding on each others silence.
Yesterday, after I arrived here and unloaded some stuff from the truck, J. and I went out to eat Indian food, then did some shopping and wandering around for the afternoon, then I went into SF on the BART train to attend Chorus rehearsal. Los of folks welcomed me back, and asked me how I was. I had some good talks with friends. It was very good, and I felt very self-confident and welcomed. Had a fun time. The music theyre working on is a gay version of Gilbert of Sullivan, the U.S.S. Metaphor; very funny versions of the lyrics; I understand there might be a DVD later, which would be fun to watch.
I have to clean this room, that I used to live in, now flooded with morning sunlight, and box up my belongings. I need to sort through and decide what not to take with me: what to recycle, what to sell, what to get rid of at Goodwill. (At Goodwill, sometimes you buy something useful, then return it, or rather re-donate it, in a year or three: modern recycling.) It feels like a lot to do, this first morning here, but Im going to chip away at it all day, then re-assess; perhaps its not quite so bad as I thought. But I do expect to go home with a full truck, and quite probably have to ship some things. I dont have to get this all sorted out today, but I do need to get it sorted out; so, I want to dig into it, all this day, and see how far I get. I have a weeks stay here, in which to work it all out. In the flurry of it all, theres probably something Ill forget, too.
At the beach cove at Fort Bragg, two evenings ago, as I walked, I picked up a few more sea-polished rocks, of unusual color and shape. I wondered if this beach made dreamstones, but I didnt find any; perhaps it doesnt, or perhaps theyre not for me, from there. I have my sacred places, where the stones are made. I did find one more dreamstone when I stopped at Moolack Beach a few days ago; and I expect to stop at Pescadero again, on this journey.
Meanwhile, one more moving house detail to figure out. I have all these dreamstones here in my old room, which I would like to ship home somehow. I may have to mail them in a few small boxes, because of weight. And some Ill transport myself; but not the bulk, again because of weight. Some I will no doubt put into small corners of my other cases; a stone here, a stone there. Some of them are quite fragile, so I may have to pack them quite well. But my intuition tells ms that, once gathered, its best to take them with me; not out of ownership, as I may eventually give many away, or use as elements of a stone garden, or work into art-pieces, or bind into dreamcatchers; so, not ownership, but stewardship.
A timely quote forwarded by a friend:
As I grow older I grow calm. If I fear that we are running through the worlds resources at a pace that we cannot keep. I do not lose my hopes. I do not pin my dreams for the future to my country or even to my race. I think it probable that civilization somehow will last as long as I care to look aheadperhaps with smaller numbers, but perhaps bred to greatness and splendor by science. I think it not improbable that man, like the grub that prepares a chamber for the winged thing it never has seen but is to bethat man may have cosmic destinies that he does not understand. And so beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth I catch a dreaming glimpse of peace. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1943, in The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes by Max Lerner, Little Brown & Co.
547. 5 February 2007, On the BART train, out of El Cerrito, CA
Woke up early, chatted awhile more with Pat and her family, than started driving. Came down past Albion and got on Hwy. 128 up the Navarro River, through another state park full of redwoodsanother long alley or tunnel surrounded by huge trees, with ferns everywhere, and silent dim lightand then past numerous vineyards and wineries, before getting back onto Hwy. 101 at Cloverdale. After that, a fast arrival in Pinole, in the middle of the day. Overall, a quiet mornings ride, although lots of twists and turns in the road over the coastal mountain range again, then a fast zoom down the interstate to San Rafael. I spent the afternoon with J., hanging out and doing some shopping; we also had a good meal at one of our favorite Indian restaurants. Now, Im riding into the City to visit the SF Gay Mens Chorus, to say hello to Chorus friends, and get a taste of what I miss when Im not here. (No such gay community or social gathering for me in the Midwest, where I often feel alone and isolated.)
In the first light of morning at Fort Bragg, the great blue heron was working the surf line down in the cove, the same heron that often is in the creek below the house here; hummingbirds came to the window several times; a Coast Guard cruiser raced south past the surf; the wild turkeys were in the garden; and ravens everywhere. A day full of ravens, again. Several times, they were nearby, as I drove, as I stopped, as I took photographs. Ravens everywhere here: a good enough reason to want to stay longer.
Coming into the Bay Area metropolitan zone, back into heavy traffic after weeks of light or nonexistent traffic, I find myself tensing up in self-defense. The difference between urban and rural driving styles is blatant. Coming over the San Rafael Bridge, I clutched the wheel, anxious for the first time in many months about earthquakes, as well as about the people driving barely tolerably on the road with me. Richmond stinks. I mean that literally. After several days of breathing the crisp, clean air of the Rocky Mountains, followed by several days breathing the crisp, clean air of the Pacific Ocean coast, arriving in the Big City, the first thing you notice is that it smells. Coming down from Hwy. 101 to Hwy. 580 over the San Rafael Bridge and past Point Richmond, between the Chevron plant and the city trash dump by the Bay, it stinks.
I have mixed feelings. Glad to have arrived, to be here; yet anxious to finish my business here and move on; too tired to want to cookI arrived in Pinole around 1pm, and J. helped me unload the car, then we went to a favorite Indian restaurant for lunch; Im not interested in cleaning or packing my belongings tonight, Im too tired. The last time I was online was the morning I left Crescent City, and Im sure email has piled up in the intervening time, as it is wont to do; well, I check it when I get home to Pinole after Chorus rehearsal. There are chores to do, that must be done sooner rather than later; but I need a night to just arrive, unwind, and get settled, before beginning the work of cleaning and departing. I feel rushed, but not rushed; just arrived, and already wanting to move on. My restless wheels, seeking the road as soon as possible. I have been planning to spend a week here, as it might take that long to tie up my affairs; but maybe Ill leave sooner than that, and maybe Ill stay an extra day or two. Now that Im here, I have to contact several people, too, to let them know my plans, and see if we can get together socially. I put out that general email to lots of folks before I left Beloit, hoping to get together; but Ive already missed a couple of respondents, because it was just too logistically difficult. Another time, though, another round of travel, and those missed meetings could happen. As I said before, I would have loved to spend even longer in some of the places Ive already been; and that desire is only likely to continue: the desire to linger, to absorb more before moving on. But again, Im packing a lot of travel, and living, into a very short time, even on this longer road trip. Ill have time in the months to come to sort it all out, and integrate it, then let it all go.
546. 4 February 2007, Fort Bragg, CA
Leaving Crescent City in the morning, I spent much of the morning taking photos in the redwoods, especially along the scenic route south of Crescent City, where Hwy. 101 goes up into the hills; then again south of the Klamath River, where the marked scenic drive, the Avenue of the Giants, winds along parallel to 101 until it emerges at Prairie Creek State Park. I took many photos as I drove, stopping often. In these woods, the light is dramatic but dim, so I used the tripod constantly, to get the shots I saw and wanted.
I am taking enormous quantities of new photos on this journey, stocking up for many more projects to come; for when I finally return to the Midwest, in a few weeks, to stay indefinitely, this material will give me enough to work with for months to come.
I am feeling nostalgic for these places I havent even left yet, knowing that I might not be able to visit them again for some time. This is a bittersweet feeling I have been experiencing all along, on this long road journey; I expect it to continue, as I pass through every familiar place Ive known.
a stone, a lamp, a welter of grieving. this symbiosis.
light crash against tan bark, stripping itself to needle thread. feathers in still air.
five lives emerge to walkabout the ferns: tracks of silent departures.
in every place stopped, an arch, a sacred cathedral. trees choir, timber, fall.
sunrise at your feet, leaping from glade to grove to teetered moss: reminder of outside.
(I hope its more than a mannerism, yet I notice that my invented five-line fractal form has evolved to the point where I find that I use the form in a similar way in many individual poems: in the first three lines I give images and artifacts, the fourth line has emotional meaning, often the emotional core of the poem, and the fifth is often some concluding statement given as a new image. I think that maybe this usage was always going on, but I only recently became consciously aware of it as a formal stylism, as I am writing through the poem itself. I think it could be an aspect of the form itself, that it fractalizes meaning like this, but I hope its not just a personal tic. I hope too that I dont reveal too much; a poem must always be far more than just its mechanics.)
The long days driving, stopping, starting, taking photos. Giving me more time to think. A welter of feelings coming up out the ground of being. I cant help but be shed of some griefs, gladnesses, and old-growth wounds that have festered too long. Its a relief to let them go, even though the letting-go can be painful, emergent, catapulted, sudden.
The last fifty miles of highway to arrive at Fort Bragg last night are deliriously beautiful, but I was tired by then, and just wanted to have arrived. After a long days driving, 22 miles of 15-mile-per-hour hairpin turns on coastal mountain roads was more than I wanted to deal with. I couldnt appreciate the beauty of the place so much, then, because I was already tired. It was too late in the day.
Ive been noticing that I do a lot of my days photography in the morning, gradually tapering off in the afternoon, and then theres this last push to arrive, at days end. Its a noticeable pattern, on this trip. I work best when rested and focused, obviously; thats just human. But its also true that by mid-afternoon, Im saturated, full, replete with looking. My eyes are full, and need a rest. In future travels, which will hopefully be travels in no hurry, with no deadlines and no destinations planned, where when I am done for the day, I can just stop, and settle for the night (another reason to do this with a small RV, where you can just pull over to nap away the afternoon, then find a place to spend the night, come dusk), and spend two or three days in one location.
I know that some of the frustration-nostalgia-emotion I am feeling on this journey is that I cannot afford to spend as much time in any of these places as I would like. Any of the places Ive been through, just in the past three days since leaving Portland, were places where I could have spent two or three days apiece, at least. Maybe someday I will be able to do just that, on a big wander, a long walkabout, a journey without any need to arrive anywhere, anytime, for any reason than just to have stopped. I think of Yang Wan-Li, one of my favorite poets, a mendicant drunken scholar poet, whose extensive travels, both purposed and purposeless, led him to write, Heaven my blanket, earth my pillow.
So, after another long day of driving and photography, I arrived here just at dusk. Its a lovely setting for a house, nestled behind pines in which the wild turkeys roost at night, overlooking a creek and an inlet bay of the great ocean. Hummingbirds come to the window, and there is a great blue heron that works the creek, some days.
Sometimes I feel as if I am moving so fast across the earths face, that I just have to let things wash over me, absorb as much as I can, until I am full to the brim; and only later let it all be taken in and integrated. I am moving so fast, it feels like, that I dont have time to absorb it all as I go; I am stocking it all up for later. Later means understanding and integrating, but later also means art-making and interpreting. The interpretation of a life lived fast and intensely, with time taken, later, to make sense of it all, and to make it all into art. Its all raw material; none of it is wasted, ever.
Pat and I stayed up late last night talking art and poetry and politics. Which was predictable, as well as fun. I wake to morning birds, light coming in skylights and from the deck outside this semi-separated room. I sit writing, wanting some silence and solitude this morning, listening to the birds outside, and the traffic on the highway blending together with the surf and water noises; theres a beach inlet with a creek right below the house, down a long series of moss-covered steps. Its a cold clear morning; I could sleep still, as its restful here. But its time to awaken, to get moving. I enjoy the stillness as long as it lasts.
545. 3 February 2007, Crescent City, CA
Another bumper sticker idea:
Dont get mad,
I realize that my plans to meet my artist/poet friend Patricia at her home in Fort Bragg have slowed me down now: not in a bad way, but rather than rushing, a headlong hurdle needing to arrive at a given place before days end, and driving for duration and distance, yesterday and today Im taking my time, so as not to arrive early. Its enforced leisure, and slow timing. It leaves me time for reflection, both as I drive, but also as I stop to take photographs. That leaves time for my long-suppressed emotions to come to the surface; which they have been, in spades. I hate suppression, and repression; but I cant always help it, when Im living with someone for whom Ive become principal caregiver, and for whom I sometimes have to be the emotional adult. It puts me in a position I dont always like, but I must do it, its too important. So, these feelings Ive been feeling: everything rising to the surface now: its only natural, once you take the lid off the pot, that things might spill over the sides. I dont feel bad, I want to be clear about that; but I do feel turbulent, scattered, unfocused, unclear, ungrounded, and edgy. Not angry, but not happy. Everything is in a whirl of confused and layered feeling, and none of it is untangled from the rest; its all bunched up together in a ball. Its an unraveling ball at the moment, instead of a tightly-wound ball: and that is what is different.
Its a beautiful dawn over the Crescent City harbor; the harbor horn has been sounding all night and day, but I got used to it, and dont notice it; its not an ugly sound, or a distracting one. I heard sea lions barking from my hotel window, and several different kinds of birds. My window overlooked the harbor, and South Beach beyond, and the hills covered with redwood forests beyond that.
Theres a beautiful bird Ive seen several times since Idaho, that I dont recognize: large, deep, iridescent dark blue body an wings, with a black crest like a bluejay or kingfisher; the blue and black shade into each other, by gradation, rather than being sharply demarcated; Ive always seen it near water, so I wonder if its a kingfisher of some kind. (Update: Its a Stellars Jay.)
There are clouds moving this morning, giving the sky some texture and dramatic lighting, although the dawn itself was bright and golden, coming in my window like benediction. Ive only slept a few hours; Im tired but rested and alert. Time to get moving.
544. 2 February 2007, Crescent City, CA
Today I found in a used bookstore in Coos Bay, during their going out of business sale, an anthology of travel writing called Journeys, ed. by Charles Nicholl. Here are a few random samples:
Fire on the mountain:
the image of the wanderer.
He who wishes to explore Nature must tread her books with his feet. Writing is learnt from letters, but Nature from land to land. One land, one page. Thus is the Codex Naturae, thus must its leaves be turned.
Paracelsus, from Sieben Defensiones
To jungles and gravestones. . . . Reading torn 100-year-old newspaper clippings that come apart in your hands like wet sand, information tough as plastic dolls. Watched leopards sip slowly, watched the crow sitting restless on his branch peering about with his beak open. Have seen the outline of a large fish caught and thrown in the curl of a wave, been where nobody wears socks, where you wash your feet before you go to bed, where I watch my sister who alternately reminds me of my father, mother and brother. Driven through rainstorms that flood the streets for an hour and suddenly evaporate, where sweat falls in the path of this ballpoint, where the jak fruit rolls across your feet in the back of the jeep, where there are eighteen ways of describing the smell of a durian, where bullocks hold up traffic and steam and the rains.
Michael Ondaatje, from Monsoon Notebook
Midway on lifes journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hardso tangled and rough
And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
The old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter,
And yet, to treat the good I found there as well
Ill tell what I saw . . .
Dante, from The Divine Comedy
Finally, a day all to myself again. No one to talk to, or listen to. Spent all day driving down the coast, ending near sunset in Jedediah Smith State Park in northern California. It had been cloudy or foggy almost all day. I parked and walked a trail, taking tripod photos in the failing light.
I wandered far enough in on the trail that I couldnt hear the road traffic anymore. The only sound became a small creek, flowing towards the Smith River, making little stair-step falls under a moss-covered footbridge. The sound of water. No wind in the trees or ferns. Silent and alone, I wander.
dark backs of hills
slide into rising waves
hawk stoops from blue rocks
glass of elegant wine
in candlelit restaurant
outside, the harbor horn
Some strong feelings today. Maybe its the full moon. All this trip, I have been explosive whenever some piece of technology fails for no reason; maybe its a sign of how tired and worn down Ive become, that small things trigger an anger all out of proportion to the cause. At one point, driving the back roads around Cape Arago, Sunset bay State Park, and the lighthouse there, on the way back to Hwy. 101, I saw so much clearcut logged forest that I almost burst into tears. Cant people see how we maim the land doing this? I am also feeling bittersweet about this trip. Each place I have spent time in, so far, I could linger for much longerI fantasize having no timetable, and being able to spend days anywhere I land, till I want to move onand I dont know when I will be able to return here, to these places of power and beauty. It could be years. So, I am feeling bittersweet, about returning someday, but I dont know when.
of wandering monk to sea-home:
without regret, a gull
My wounded heart needing healing. My sacred heart too open, too often being an antenna for the worlds pain, to ground that lightning.
There have been times, this journey, and more than one today, when I pulled over to take photos or fill up with gas, or just stare at the grey waves coming in, times when I wanted to be anonymous and invisible, but friendly strangers wave to me, or say hello, or want to talk about something. I was polite but curt in reply. Later on, as the hotel desk clerk wanted to chatter, I was tired of talking, so I just listened. Now, Im having a glass of nice white wine with citrus garlic shrimp at the Ambrosia Grill here on Front St. A sublime meal, and a restful one. (I am underdressed for this restaurant, but I just put on my best aura of respectability and pulled a Willie Garvin: be charming and comfortable, no matter how dire the circumstances.)
A couple of nights ago, I taught Alex how to make good Indian curry; I made him do it, while I coached. I had bought several spices and ingredients for him in Minneapolis, and it was fun to show him how to do this. Later that night, I gave him the Reiki II attunement.
Now, driving down the coast, on these silent days, a chance for introspection. A chance to be silent. Things bubble up: strong emotions; deep hurts thought about, unresolved, but aired out; and bittersweet thoughts about the land I am traveling through. Its all part of this journey.
543. 1 February 2007, Florence, OR
Im in a good hotel in a small town on the coast on Oregon. Nothing on TV, but I have it on anyway, just to check the weather. Another long days drive, this time from Portland down the coast to here. Stopped at Moolack Beach again, just south of Depoe Bay, and found one more dreamstone, and many more that will become dreamstones with more weathering and time. The gulls were quiet and calm, but they were there, where they always seem to be. The shore was lost in heavy mist.
I got a late start and only came this far today. The weather was clear and sunny, cool but not cold. I stopped briefly this morning at the Japanese Garden, and took more good photos. The air was crisp, and there was ice on the ponds. No birds or koi or spiders to be found anywhere: winter stillness.
The shadows on the garden features were long and low. I chatted briefly with more than one person, along the paths. All of us sharing the early morning light in the gardens, when hardly anyone else was around.
I never tire of this place. Even just this hour spent wandering its trails today gives me a sense of deep peace. If I lived in Portland, Id be here all the time.
Yesterday when I drove up to Olympia, WA, and back, to visit my aunt, the sky was clear till I got to Olympia, where there was heavy fog that eventually cleared up later in the afternoon; I saw all the mountain peaks of the Cascade Range as I was driving: Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, and the rest. Nothing you could photograph form the highway, but inspiring to view. Still, at sunset, before dirivng back to Portland, Mt. Rainier made a magical appearance for a brief moment before nightfall.
This morning, I could see Mt. Hood from the terrace on the east end of the Japanese Gardens. After the fog lifted in Olympia, my aunt and I walked out to the road just above her house, where Mt. Hood was clearly visible, pink and lovely in the sunset light. Her writing table, in her office, looks out on this view.
I stopped briefly at three or four Goodwills along the route today, taking my time, not trying to get very far. I had originally planned to try to get as far as Port Orford today, but come sunset, I knew I was done for the day: no more driving after dark, on this journey. I am always looking for certain things at Goodwill: unusual objects, rare books, camping gear, etc.; on occasion, Ive even found beautiful objects such as raku bowls, and Japanese calligraphy boxes with ink, stone, brush, and chop; I have one such elegant little box that I keep in the truck, for use while Im traveling. (I need to visit that Japanese stationery store in Palo Alto on this trip, and stick up on supplies.) Shopping, I found a few rare books, and an interesting brass candleholder: a flame-shaped leaf reflector behind the candleholder itself, all on one stand. I like these unusual, evocative designs. I collect them, too, because I love candlelight, and often use that instead of electric lights, when Im sitting and thinking or writing, late at night.
542. 29 January 2007, Portland, OR
I left Lewiston, ID, this morning, after the truck checked out fine. I drove across the Snake River to the Clarkston, WA, side; two quant little towns, quaintly named. A lot of things around here are named after Lewis & Clark. Hwy. 12 that Ive been driving along is the Lewis & Clark scenic highway, for example.
East of Clarkston, I stayed on Hwy. 12 and drove up through low mountain passes, frosted with fog-ice at their summit; across long stretches of tilled and plowed landthis part of the state is a breadbasket, a lot of hay mowed for ranching; along the small rivers, through Walla-Walla until I reached the mighty Columbia at Wallula Gap; soon after, I was in Oregon, rather than Washington, and driving along the River.
The rest of the day was spent following the Columbia River, on Hwy. 84; across, on the Washington side, Hwy. 14 played parallel traffic tag. Even though it was dark and clouded all day, even foggy in spots, I had to stop for photos numerous times: at times, the water was a perfect mirror, reflecting the far shore and the sky like quicksilver.
I got near to Mt. Hood at dusk, and only caught a glimpse of the mountain, before it was swallowed up again by more clouds. Getting into Portland wasnt too hard, even though it was night; although I have to say: whoever designed these highways, theyre so bloody complicate and illogical, ought to be taken out behind the barn and beaten. Okay, okay: theyre probably roads that have been added in layers, but some of them are just amazingly ridiculous.
Now that Im in Portland, Im going to be here for three nights. I plan to drive up to Olympia for an afternoon to visit my Aunt G., then start the drive south down the Pacific coast. But for now, I just plan to hang out with Alex and his friends for awhile. A few days of rest is a good thing.
541. 29 January 2007, The Dalles of the Columbia River, OR
This is something I thought about, several days ago, when first beginning this journey: this journey has been ruled so far by the ritual Elements: Earth, Air, Fire Water.
When I first set out, it was across familiar, well-known land; places Id been before, and had lived in; the known landsEarth.
Then I drove through a day of icy fog, followed by a day of clear, cold windAir.
Next, I had a day and night of rage: the inner burning; Im sure now that this was triggered in part by stopping at the battlefield at the Little Bighorn; the death there, the past horror, the refiners crucible of experience; and then my own emotions for a day and a night, followed by the test of something being wrong with the truck, that turned out to be nothing; burning karma in my own firesFire.
Then, two days of driving alongside rivers: from the headwaters of the Clearwater River, down to where it merged with the Snake River, straddled by Lewiston and Clarkston; then today along the mighty Columbia River, all the way to the oceanWater.
Of course, all the Elements are all present all the time, and intermingle, and intermix; for example, mist and rain are mingled air and water. But its been a noticeable progression, when you observe it this way. Next, perhaps, is the fifth element: Spirit.
540A. Update, 29 January, Lewiston, ID, morning
First thing in the morning, I called the Chevy dealer, and they came and picked me up, and took the truck in to look the wheel over. It was a rock, that bounced up and got caught against the brake disc, scraping on it. They took it apart, and found the stone, and nothing else was wrong.
I have a short list of maintenance items to do on the truck when I get to California, that would be smart to do before I drive home; but nothing that cant wait till I get there. So, Im going to have a quick bite to eat, then start driving along Hwy. 12 again.
540. 28 January 2007, Lewiston, ID
Woken in the night by the sounds of people upstairs, talking, maybe having sex, then later, snoring. Had to put on the iPod headphones and listen to music to get back to sleep. Just more crap after a day full of crap.
Awoken at dawn by the sounds of crows and ravens.
All day long Ive seen and heard ravens. Also saw another bald eagle, perched in a tree hanging over the river, down in the Clearwater River flowage.
I drove up to Missoula on the interstate, then stopped for a meal. Then I got onto Hwy. 12 and drove cross-country to Lewiston.
All day long, driving along the mountain rivers, from the headwaters of the Lochsa River in Lolo Pass, in the Clearwater national Forest, to where it emerges at Lowell; then alongside the Middle fork Selway to Kooskia, where a small gathering of locals are fishing the banks; then alongside the Clearwater River through many small towns, once seeing a bald eagle in a tree hanging high over the riverbanks, to where the Clearwater flows into the Snake River here in Lewiston, Idaho, which is right across the river from Clarkston, Washington.
Driving down from mountain chasms into deep valleys, the freezing fog and snow coating the trees in the higher altitudes, but the trees also covered with ice on the shadowed sides of the valleys, where the sun cannot thaw them. Bright ice fairylands, covered with winter magic. Then, just around the next bend of the river, golden light coming up the valley from the west, as the sun lowers towards dusk. Golden light spearing through thick trees, glistening on the ice-crusted rocks and hillsides, green and gold with melted snow.
A thrill ride through a magical landscape. I stopped many times to take pictures. Most of the traffic was going in the other direction, back up the pass, and there were many times I could slow down and shoot a few frames without having to leave the road; and the road was often too narrow for stopping, with no shoulder. I wanted to stop and take photos, or shoot out the window while driving, so I pulled over to let them pass. I stopped several times.
The mountain air is so cold and crisp, I just want to bottle it and take it with me everywhere I go. It clears the head, and the sinuses, and makes you feel open and emptied out, in a good way. Things fall by the wayside.
I got down into the wide Clearwater flowage just at dusk, and drove the last hour in complete darkness: the road winds along above the water, sometimes twenty feet above it, with no guardrail; or rather, a guardrail only part of the time, and why here and not there is unclear. So easy to fall over the edge and into the cold dark waters.
My hands grip the wheel till I am exhausted, afraid of falling over this edge, like so many edges Ive come close to; but here, no one would know, or see, and I would be gone, forgotten. I have to fight to keep on the road, all this long hour of night driving. Finally I got to Lewiston; you turn a corner of the river, and there the town is, veiled behind some evil-looking smokestacks and sodium-yellow factory lights. I got into town, and started looking for a place to spend the night.
Just as I was pulling onto the frontage road off Hwy. 12, there was a bang and then my right front wheel starting screaming like a banshee. I called AAA and a tow truck took me to the local Chevy dealer, just a mile away, then back to this hotel. Granted, Im upset that this happened, but at least this happened here, and not in the middle of nowhere, where I spent all day driving. In the morning, Ill call the dealership, and have them look at it. Meanwhile, after a day feeling good, I feel plunged right back into dark emotion; feeling like a victim again, right or wrong. The tow truck and AAA and hotel people have all been good, though. Ive ordered a pizza by delivery; I cant go anywhere to eat, without the truck, and Im starving, since I havent eaten since leaving Missoula.
539. 27 January 2007, Gillette, WY
Slept well, woke feeling truly rested, even though it was only 6 or 7 hours. I slept better here than in South Dakota; maybe its that Wyoming homeplace feeling again.
Theres a light dusting of snow on the truck, and clouds to the north. I feel like I shouldnt take the northern route today, through Montana, but rather pass through the middle of the state.
I still would love to see the Tetons again, but I dont know if thats feasible. Im going to have breakfast and check the weather now.
Later, Billings, Montana, another Flying J truckstop
I didnt want to leave Wyoming. I lingered, feeling nostalgic. But I chose this northern route because the skies are clear and the weather is calm, while it was snowing in southern Wyoming, and that would have slowed things down. The roads were marked as hazardous and slick on the weather update.
Now, I have to say: this is not the most interesting drive, this eastern part of Montana. This part of Montana is Great Plains, not mountains; it reminds me of Nebraska, with dead brown grass, no snow once I got out of Wyoming, and nothing for miles. The drive through Wyoming those last few miles, through beautiful hills, draped with snow, clouds dipping low as though fog layers shrouding the peaks. It was probably smart not to drive through any mountain passes today, as much as I was tempted. I am probably going to drive 500 miles again today, as far as Butte, if possible. Or if not, find a small hotel in a small town again; I like those better than hotels in big towns. Everyone has Internet nowadays; its the new television. Well, almost everyone.
I stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, for a walk around and a short visit. The feeling there is sad, quiet, somber, but peaceful. Theres an Indian memorial there now, too, a peace memorial; and maybe that has made the difference. Things are not stirred up; no unquiet ghosts roaming the hills today. Its very quiet, indeed. A beautiful place, full of sad history. I didnt tour the museum, but I did buy a couple of historical books, and a DVD, for later reviewing. Surrounded by the Crow Reservation, the hills draped with dry brown grass, and the occasional herd of horses clumped together. Lame Deer once said, Horses make a landscape look more beautiful. And its true.
Im feeling a lot of feelings today. Anger, sadness, lost, loneliness, a buried rage, all emerging. Things surfacing that have been buried too long, these past months. Im letting myself feel whatever comes up, not trying to direct or control or edit. Some of this is weariness, from a long drive across less than fascinating landscapes. Some of it is probably old things, coming up, now that theres no pressure to keep them choked down.
A bad day, an interminable driving day. I dont feel like Im getting anywhere. Its deceptive how big these regions are; they look smaller on the maps.
Later, evening, Bozeman, Montana
It was dark as I arrived here, after going through Bozeman Pass, so I decided to stay here rather than drive on. Found a small hotel, cheap room, no frills. This town reminds me of Santa Fe or Taos: its both artsy, with internet cafes, and a ski town. Its also one of the winter entrances to Yellowstone. The hotel I found was the fourth I tried, actually.
I am dominated by rage today. Every little stupid thing sets me off. I am furious about this and that, and theyre all trivial things. I cant help it. I have no need to control it, though: its venting, purgation, via negativa.
Ive been listening to CDs of Thomas Moore reading his book Dark Nights of the Soul as I drive, and they speak to me very directly. Its a very good book on the topic; it feels very personal, very direct.
Im in a dark night today and tonight, and as usual I make no predictions about duration; it is what it is, it will last as long as it lasts. Its a dark day, among many other days, and I know to not try to repress it. I got mad and yelled while driving a few times today; I was close to tears, too, a few times. I still feel scattered, but thats also from road travel: the long hard sitting in a moving vehicle, feeling every bump in the road, your foot getting tired from pressing on the gas, because the road is too irregular to use the cruise control. Its a process of relaxing from each days drive, lasting into the evening.
I want to say something more positive, but thats challenging at the moment. When youre in the dark night, which is a transitional time, nothing usual means anything: platitudes and ordinary wisdom are so much crap; the usual certainties fall away, and leave nothing in their place. But that nothingness is a fruitful darkness; you just have to endure, and wait and see what emerges. It will be new, and though it might be unsettling to the people who know you, it will be right and true.
I know Ive been changing. Its partly how tired and burned out Ive been as a caregiver, its partly the trip preparations taking all my time and energy. Nonetheless, I know Ive been changing, beyond that. I have zero tolerance for bullshit anymore; I have no patience for the self-destructive and narcissistic; I have no ability to be sentimentally compassionate for fools who refuse to grow up and get over themselves; I feel much more judgmental than I want to be, or think I should be. I have no sentimentality or nostalgia whatsoever. (Well, except maybe for Wyoming as a favorite place, which I admitted to feeling this morning.) I demand respect for myself and my boundaries.
Im tired of people poking their spears into the Dragoncave, just to see what happens, and I have no regrets about Flaming them if theyre quite so stupid as to provoke the Dragon. I feel the Dragon very close to the surface. Dark wings fill the night. My gaze is red-glowing, and my fangs drip with blue Fire. I suppose I must apologize, just to be civil, at some point, but right now, I dont feel like it.
Im annoyed that I had to drive up here into Montana, far out of my planned and hoped for route, because the roads and passes of my beloved central and northern Wyoming are just unsafe to drive on. Im too tired to handle them. But here in the hotel late at night, I am bitter about not being in Wyoming, and not having spent the day driving across there, instead of here. I feel trapped and off-course, isolated and unloved, tired enough to weep, frustrated by a full day of ridiculously misbehaving technology: one of those days where everything takes longer than it should, and everything is harder than it needs to be, and people are stupid and oblivious. I want to lash out, but theres nothing but air. No purchase, nothing to really satisfyingly hit.
Oh yes, we all have darker selves, we all contain a great capacity for violence. But heres how you handle your animal instincts, you inner savagery and rage, your violent self: you choose, just for today, not to. Not for tomorrow: just for today. One bitter day at a time, with no promised for tomorrow. Either I will wake up in a changed mood, a transformed inner landscape, or I must endure, endure, endure till Im sick of enduring, sick of it all. Humans really piss me off sometimes. I am just astounded at how cruel we can be to each other, for no reason at all.
Sign that stands in for the unnamable whirl of inward clench;
sign that names nothing, being itself an unmade word;
sign that is no apt symbol;
sign that calls itself emotion, feeling rage; anger;
say instead how the pith of the day was sour; how every touch of finger to world bleeds; say instead how this constant shimmer and shelter in flickering breast is a blue flame behind the breast; how the slam of open palm on table, or the punch of fist into leather padding, is a lash back at what whips and daggers;
say instead how the morning wont come soon enough, as you lie awake all night, staring at the ceiling till your ears fill up with tears;
say what sign is an evasion of: what canopy of mourning and dismemberment;
say how the hand wishes to lash out in fury, but fists itself into restraints, sheathed, till the clench of shoulder and arm is rigid with derision.
Perhaps some ghosts have followed you after all, from the camps of the dead;
perhaps the ghosts of long-dead warriors, from another age, another land, are with them;
perhaps this haunting is mere remembrance;
perhaps the enemy way chant, the ghost exorcism ritual, the ghost dance returning, the leavening of the moons daughter, who walks between worlds and underworld, who holds key and dagger, whip and torch, who lashes the heads of enemies to her belt, is walking among the dead and living tonight;
perhaps the ritual slaughter of the innocents is the genuine price to pay her;
perhaps to free yourself of wraiths and shadows, you must take on the suns son, and his solar insistence on light and leavening as the only way;
perhaps these thinning walls must be skinned and shuttered with nails and blood;
perhaps the mandala of the sands whirling is a door into something else releases, heals even as it hurts, the dark sun hanging over all this;
perhaps this day is a dance of ghosts.
Come back again,
return, return, renew,
make the land free of killers
and their engines that make blood dance
Come back again,
make us whole,
even as we are walking home
sand in wind, in rain.
Tears for an ocean,
scaffold of fire and bitter death:
sky-buried, sky-burned, sun-kissed, moon-eaten.
this apt killing of the old self,
this dark night of renewal and purgation.
538. 26 January 2007, Gillette, WY
I like being in Wyoming. I always like it there, ever since I spent that summer in my teens studying geology in the field; we drove all over, stopping to put our noses to the outcrops, our hand lens and rock hammers at the ready. It happened like it has before, like it always does: I cross the border into Wyoming, and my mind expands. I feel broader here, bigger, wider; more open, maybe. I feel at home. This is a homeplace, for me; which is rare enough to be noted. I could spend a lot more time here. Someday, on a more leisurely journey, I will; Ill spend at least a week here, maybe more; maybe some summer or early fall, when the roads are good and the land is awake instead of sleeping. I need to leave in this open mind space for a longer time than Ihave in years.
Today was a day of relentless wind. The wind began in the night, and walkig into it this morning was like standing still. All across South Dakota, the high wind out of a clear sky.
Wind invading my very mind, till I almost am shaped into wind. I master earth, I master wind, I shape wind, and disappear, my mind blown like chaff into an abyss.
I drove along the interstate all morning, Hwy. 90, fighting the truck from being blown around all the way, to the Badlands, and spent the morning doing photography there.
I had stopped for gas in two little towns on the prairie, ghost towns shut down for the winter season, with no tourist travelers, and was deceived: signs on the antique gas pumps all said, Closed for the season. After the Badlands, where I got tired of fighting the wind, and so took many photos from inside the car, the window rolled down as I drove, after that I spent a little time at Wall Drug, famous kitsch superstore: famous for being famous, and its major marketing message is the experience of being there. I succumbed, and bought a few mementoes, mostly as gifts.
The Badlands of the White River, overlooking the Pine Ridge Reservation. Amazing rock formations, weathered by wind as much as by water. The Brule sandstones, and the red and green softer stones of other formations. Weathering to peaks and jutted points, sharp edges against the sky.
Then I drove to Bear Butte, a sacred place to the Lakota, and a sacred place place of power and vision to me. I offered tobacco to the winds, and also left tobacco at the memorial statue of Frank Fools Crow placed there at the base of the bluffs. A place of great power. You can feel the visions moving in the gates on the eastern point of the butte. A restless energy that makes the rocks themselves shimmer as though in heat-waves, even in this cold and wind. Fools Crow did many healings and vision quests at Bear Butte, where you can feel the power in the land.
There's a campground nearby, next to the small lake just west, but not a good place to sleep. The lake itself is a remnant, almost dried up, drought-eaten and choked; the shore is a hundred yards further from the campsites than it used to be. There's a warning at the campsites, where no one is camping today in this cold and wind, that campfires are currently forbidden.
There's an abandoned farmstead and ranch, tucked into the side of a hill above the dying lake: empty wood palaces inhabited by ghosts. The only place to get really focused here is up on the butte itself, with the spirits. I offered tobacco to the directions, and to the winds. On many of hte trees near hte hiking trails, prayer clothes and prayer-ties, with tobacco inside, were tied to the bare branches of trees and saplings. Colored clothes whipping the wind, offering continuous prayers for peace, for healing, for power.
These winds: so overpowering. You remember how exhausting it is to drive through these winds; how you have to fight to hold the wheel, to stay on the road, and how tense and tired your arms get after hours of straining against the wind's pushing you to the side; how your leg gets tired from always having to ride the gas pedal, between the wind's cross-road shove, and the ups and downs of the rolling hills. Not a cloud in the sky.
I left my offerings at Bear Butte, and took numerous photos. A full day of taking many photos. I was outside in the wind all day, taking photos, and I feel invaded by wind. My ears hurt, and my throat is scratchy. I need a good long sleep to recover, to get the wind invasion out. Im in a hotel in Gillette, and at least its dark and quiet. I watched a little TV, as I was unwinding. Now my nose is tickly, although its just wind coming out, not a flu coming on. Tomorrow I drive across Wyoming, somehow. Id love to see the Tetons, but I dont know what the weather will be like. The roads might be good, but the next wave of storms might also be coming in.
I arrived at Devils Tower an hour before dusk. I rushed up to an overlook and took many photos of the Tower glowing golden in the sunset light. A feelow traveler was also there, and chatted above the beauty of the place, all the wildlife there, and the amazing light of the sunset on the stone of the Tower. We took each others' photos, then parted on our separate ways. Safe journey, safe home.
Yesterday, I saw a pheasant. Today I have seen ravens, redtail hawks, rabbits, prairie dogs, deer, and a bald eagle. In narrative order: eagle, prairie dog (which is a rodent, like mouse), and deer: so, to make a spiritual sentence from the grammar of action, and each animal totem's symbolic meaning: Spirit, Gathering, Gentleness. Spirit, gather gentleness. A message from the Powers That Be. Gathering gentleness into my being, my spirit-being, as Eagle is my East totem.
The weather today was warmer, except for the wind, which was so strong and steady it was like pressing against a wall, a wall that was freezing cold and burned my ears and eyes. I got so cold a couple of times, stepping away from the truck to take photos, that my ears hurt. Then back into the car and balsted the heater to get warm again. I took lots of photos from the car, everywhere I drove, deciding not to get out into that killing wind any more than necessary. That physical presence, that overpowering force of nature. So, Im very tired tonight, from the winds assault, and being outdoors in the harsh environment, here at 3000 to 5000 feet in altitude, at various parts of the day. I got dried out, too, from the wind, so drank a lot of water later. I feel scattered, blown about mentally, scattered in inner winds, after all this wind outdoors, too. I need to refocus, and concentrate; call myself together from where the wind has blown me apart. I take refuge. . . .
537. 25 January 2007, Murdo, SD
I crossed the Columbia River an hour before sunset, at Chamberlain. On the east side of the river, the land is familiar, farmland well-harvested, fields shaved for winter but still in row stubble. I stood on a high cliff overlooking the river at a highway rest stop; there was an historical marker about the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery.
On the west side of the river, a completely different landscape, low rolling hills with tall prairie grass; otherwise, rough and infertile, a hard land; this is beef country. Ranchland, open prairie. This little town I am spending the night in is just a dot along the road, a town on the prairie I pulled into with the last twilight still touching the hills in the far west. After a morning full of fog, the sunset was golden and beautiful under a clear sky. I had to drive up to the highway to get cellphone reception; theres none down here in the shallow bowl of the valley the town is nestled in.
When I first drove across South Dakota in 1993, it was a windy day. We drove into heavy headwinds until dark, always fighting the drag, always having to pull against the steering wheel. and it was exhausting. Today, no wind, and so I made good time. I drove around 500 miles today.
After Sioux Falls, the fog thickened and thinned, the sun disk occasionally showing, and along the road the trees were coated with ice: white on white on white: snow, ice, black brushstrokes of ice-rimed branches, stark on white and silver rice-paper fields.
The fog finally thinned and faded just before the Columbia River. After that, the sky was clear and crisp. The altitude here is around 2000 feet, as I slowly rise towards the mountains.
A male pheasant walking by the side of the road, unmoved by the passing traffic.
I went over to the Buffalo Bar & Steakhouse here in Murdo, for a truly excellent bacon cheeseburger. Juicy and thick and fresh. This is beef country, after all. My waitress said to me, they bring in the beef fresh in bulk, and make their own patties at the roadhouse; none of that pre-pressed soy-burger stuff, this is pure beef; you hold it up to the light and you cant see through them, either.
thick black angus cows
dot the wild grass rolling hills
fresh beef-country burger!
536. 25 January 2007, Flying J truckstop, Sioux Falls, SD
Im sitting here having a meal, and writing. As I crossed the border into South Dakota, everything became foggy. There were small snow flurries as I left the Twin Cities early this morning, and there have been thin blowing clouds all day: enough to keep the world diffused and white, but thin enough to still see the suns disk through, in its arc across the morning.
Yesterday I spent running around Minneapolis and St. Paul doing shopping and errands. It was a long, tiring day, but I also had time to stop in at the Minnesota Institute of the Arts and spend some time in the Asian section. There is a new room full of long calligraphed scrolls and landscape paintings from old China, from various periods. Beautiful brushwork in the grass and running grass scripts. The conventions of Chinese painting, which I like and agree with, and sometimes imitate in my photography, show the subject of the painting as a tiny person acting out life down in the corner, surrounded by huge vistas of wild mountains, mists, forests: natural settings that dwarf the small humans. There is always at least one or two people in the painting, but they are tiny against the immensity of the natural world; this convention in painting reminds us of our insignificant place in the vastness of the Universe, and keeps things in perspective. It reduces the ego to its proper place: present, but not dominant. Contrast this with expressionist painting and confessional poetry, in which the personality-ego is large and foreground and overpoweringly narcissistic.
I also spent some quiet time in the peace of the Japanese Tea House display, which is always calming and centering for me.
Then, at last, I felt like I was finally really truly on the road: when I moved past the familiar. From the known to the not-known. I drove down to Hwy. 90 via Mankato and Worthington, on MN Highways 169 and 60. Long stretches of flat country, as flat as it gets on the Great Plains, punctuated by tall grain silos, with trains parked at their bases. I went through the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, which is really the valley of the Minnesota River at LeSeuer. A little snow in the air, clouds low to the ground and moving fast.
Now, its foggy and cold, and a little bit of precipitation is coating my windshield. The motor that runs my washer jets isnt working; Im not sure why, but its annoying: one more goddamn thing to deal with, instead of moving forward, as though designed to slow me down and keep me in my place: well, fuck that. Im going.
Update: They were just frozen. They work fine now.
535. 24 January 2007, Minneapolis, MN
I drove out of Beloit midday yesterday, finally beginning the first leg of this long journey. Multiple purposes for this trip: to recover my remaining belongings from California; to feed my DVD and art with lots of new photographs taken as I travel; to have a respite from caregiving, so I can return renewed and refreshed; to have time to integrate and absorb all that has happened in the past many months, when I havent really had time to do so before.
The roads were dry and clear, and traffic was light. I am still getting used to the new truck configuration, with the topper and new tires; getting used to the sound and feel, as though it were a new vehicle. Mileage is reduced by the extra weight, and probably some from wind-drag, too; mileage reduced by almost a quarter, which is a lot. But gas prices are at an all-time low right now, so my gas budget may be alright. I just have to take it easy, conserve my resources till I really need them; careful and cautious.
I am going to spend two nights here in the Twin Cities, with some time today visiting friends, some time doing errands and shopping, and evening dinner plans. I feel like Im trying to pack too much in, but Im also still in transition: between the pressures of departure, and the excitement of finally being on the road; and later on there will be several days of solitary driving, as I move West on the interstates towards Portland. Its winter, and I need to make good time heading West, so I plan to mostly drive the interstates, as much as I enjoy raking the smaller roads across my lonely landscapes.
I have planned photo stops in carious places, time and weather permitting. I want to visit a few national parks on this journey, and do photos. I dont want to push myself into driving at night. And the weight of the truck, both going and returning, is higher than Im used to yet. All these factors mean a slower, less rushed journey, with plenty of time out for stopping and contemplating. Thats deliberate: its part of my own healing, to be able to stop and do a camera walk somewhere, and also to not rush things. Its different traveling in winter: last time I made this journey, to the East, six months or so ago, the ambient temperatures everywhere I went were in the 90s and 100s; today, they are in the 20s (all fondly Fahrenheit). So, more layers of clothing, and possible tricky road conditions, which is another reason I dont want to drive at night, those invisible patches of ice, and more caution. But, here we go: on the road again. Im on the road again.
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