it is early morning, the air is crisp and cold and the wind is blowing. she wakes me with chewing on my pillow, I pad out in my hard soled slippers and fleece jacket over my pjs. not to be scatological but this first trip of the day, is the one where she likes to do her business, i walk up the hill to the first tier to encourage her, if i stand by the door she doesn’t always take the time she needs to. i look up in the sky and the moon is just peeking through a crack in the overcast sky and it shines light on clouds in the shape of a heart, silver against the purple-black of the sky.
i go to work, but am immediately regretting it. my hands ache, my fingers ache, my shoulders and back ache and i am nauseous from anti inflammatory. I try to work with paper and my fingers cannot grasp it to tear it. I huddle inside of myself, waiting for the day to end before it even started. i look at my schedule and realize that a day off today will not be so bad. i go home sick and spend the rest of the day in bed, though the sun is shining and perfect for a crisp autumn walk. washing the dishes feels good on my stiff fingers. half gloves after hold in the heat. ah. this is fun.
i walk the dogs after they eat their dinner. i put on more glove than i usually would for this time of year. even if you are sick, and i am not so much sick as sore all over, a puppy needs to be walked.
I have come to love, over many many years of it, this quiet walking. and now she has come to walk quite pleasantly beside me. halfway through she stops me nipping at the back of my knee until i bend down to hug her and pet her, he joins her and we are just three dogs loving each other. i make them walk farther than either of them want to. puppy energy i say, and achy old bones. we can do it, sancho is not so sure. he knows the pirate is making food. inside.
and outside. there is Orion in the autumn sky, and in my heart. these night walks are a part of me. they make me whole, even when parts of me are missing.
These images were taken on my way home this morning from points north of Speculator. They were taken along the edge of Route 365 as I headed south. This is Hinckley Resevoir. In years past this has been a very full and active reservoir. I was absolutely astonished on my way up because it is really low to my eye. There was essentially no snow pack last year, and it seemed like the foliage was so dry on my drive and my walk up the road where my friend lives. It poured all the way up, but even where she lives there was not yet one tiny patch of snow anywhere and remained above freezing the whole time I was there. She said she has a friend who is a forest ranger who was quite worried all summer, frankly I was thankfully surprised there was not one single fire this whole summer. I am really concerned about how tremendously dry this is. This reservoir feds the city of Utica, as do a couple of other very dry lakes I visited in a region northwest of here in North Lake and South Lake.
The day is uncharacteristically beautiful, the wind blowing the wind chimes wildly, as I step into the backyard wearing only a tshirt and my underwear. I love this freedom of living in this place, the freedom of knowing my backyard is not also someone else’s backyard.
I make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. I know now a recipe made by so many in my family. My brother, with his addition of vanilla to the recipe. I once added a touch of baking powder to mine, along with the baking soda because a complaint of not fluffy enough drove me, I know now it was impossible to please such a person. And I know I will never alter that recipe to please another again, this pancakes are not meant to be fluffy like some frufru dog. Do you want pancakes this morning, I ask. You bought buttermilk, right? Mmhm. Fucking Aye Right I want pancakes. I break an egg in the metal bowl and whip it with that one special metal spoon, and pour in the buttermilk. There is no measurement, and as I whip the white wheat flour into it, watching as the gluten thickens to the right consistency, I see the age spot wrinkled big veined hands of my grandfather and hear the clink of the ringed handle on his bowl. I see my cranky uncle in the knotty pine kitchen of his hand built home, whipping the batter, my mother, my cousins, one day my nieces and my daughter. Even the dog understands the ritual as he rests calmly outside the doorway of the kitchen, knowing the minute I started to whip the batter where he must wait for his share of the multi generational recipe.
Later we walk into a spot we have circled again and again, making up stories about it, stories with a science fiction twist. He now calls it the Valley of the Guardian. He asks can you imagine if the earth started shaking and there was a brilliant flash of light like in the Terminator? And as we sit on the rocks in the sun we note the pile of rocks built into a circle, he jumps up and goes over to it and makes the corresponding sound effects as the pylon emerges from the center of it. This deep sunny circle of rocks is warm his shirt drying in the sun, my jacket tied around my waist, the dog panting as the sun heats the fur on his back. It is filled with detritus of human affairs, broken bottles of beer, a half dozen white plastic buckets, car parts, foam pieces, a colander. It is filled with evidence of animals, a fox tail, scat, a skeleton of a deer scattered, snail shells everywhere.
This is why you are my best friend, I say. Why is that he asks, grinning at me from behind the sun dark glasses. Because we can sit here in the sun eating our apples and doing this and I know you are enjoying it just as much as I am. In retrospect too, I know there is no judgment either, that somehow I am a failure, no matter what I do, a judgment that leaves a bitter taste years later. That, I continue, I can make up some nonsense story about future people and you like my daughter, and a few other creative types, run with it and add your own details to the story. And also from the later thought of a writing desk, that he can protest his fear of turning gay by infection, and still stuff money in the cleavage of a drag queen, with that big grin on his face. Though it isn’t a perfect thing, this, it is like that lady slipper, it is beautiful, singular, and shines in the light of the sun.
And as we wander back, the dog and I far from him, he calls to me, asking something, I respond, our echoes like a third and fourth voice repeating the question from the top of the cliff. I imagine myself as an astronaut on a terraformed surface of the moon. In the small pockets where the water has once pooled a scrubby aspen, and a tiny long needled pine tree, a handful of stunted purple thistle, push through the dust and rock. It must be brutally hot in this place in the heat of the summer sun, and yet amidst the surface of hard brittle fragmented rock there is life. Evidence of aliens, evidence of death, but also there is life. I wonder what the future people see in this valley. Is it filled with trees that are as tall as the cliffs? Will this Valley of the Guardian ever recover from the deep brutal but beautiful scar carved here by man in a quest to quarry rock from the living earth without regard for his destruction? Without regard for the scar it would leave behind? Abandoned but for a few visitors who lunch briefly on the rocks and break things from the curious edges of its chasm?
“Ah, demons, is it?” exclaimed the boy, in his high, reedy voice. “And what of your own? Are they not encouraging you to luxuriate in self reproach?”
“To be sure. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us. What a luxury that is!” from the Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
My dreams are strange. I dream of plumbing problems, of someone calling for me to come and help them, I have nothing to offer, it isn’t my problem. Alarm bells go off. I dream of going to Australia. Why Australia. I do not know.
I dream of the future people telling me that I will invent important things. And something called compartmentalized barrier breakers. High walls around beach front homes protecting them from crashing ocean waves. A thing of my own invention. Boxes of walls that stop the waves by creating a deep tidal pool to hold the water. Plexiglass like porches where people have tea sandwiches in the grey skies while the ocean laps softly on its edges. I dream this dream again and again. I cannot stop thinking about these compartmentalized barrier walls. You invented it they tell me, you have to make your move, you have to get to work on it. I am not an inventor, I am a dreamer. I have no idea of the physics or the engineering of it. But in my dreams it works, and people live on the margins of an increasingly violent ocean.
I wake pensive, and contemplative.
My horoscope says, keep a dream journal.
I am in fact tired of writing about my past. I am ready for this future, filled with disasters.
Many of our local lakes, and rivers struggle with an invasive species of mussel called the Zebra Mussel. It wrecks havoc on our ecosystem as well as water based infrastructure. A native of Russia they were originally thought to have been brought in on the hulls, anchors, or ballast water of boats entering the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence Seaway. Although they have destroyed much they also have helped the ecosystem because they filter toxins from water, and have actually done some good with the highly polluted Great Lakes and according to Wikipedia (all of the things I stated previously I knew from following this for many years but this is new to me…) they have actually been accounted for the increase in the population of small mouth bass.
In Clark Reservation where I hike as often as I can, there are several invasive species, buckthorn a shrubby tree that was brought here as a purge medicine, chokes out other species of trees, and make bushwhacking very difficult. Also the Pale Swallow-wort an invasive species of milkweed that takes over the natural plants, including the local common milkweed that monarch butterflies love, swallow-wort is however, toxic to monarchs and cattle for that matter. But when I heard on the news the other day that one of the great fears from the Japanese Tsunami is the possibility of a new invasion of unwanted species, I had to stop and think.
Zebra Mussels carried on the hulls of ships is a product of human invasion. Tsunamis are a natural occurrence of nature, and therefore are not the events that transpire with new species being introduced to the western coastline just a product of change and natural selection? Something we should embrace as we continue to destroy our own ecosystem? As we continue to kill off species of plants and animals around the world, not only by our own introduction of toxins to the environment, but also by our introduction of green house gases to the atmosphere, or global climate change. Many species which occur naturally in our area are predicted to die out and a climate more in line with North Carolina’s ecosystem will replace ours, do we not want hurricanes to blow pollen, seeds, and flying creatures into our region to replace that which we are killing already?
One day I was having a conversation with someone about Global Climate Change and he said something that I had never heard before or thought of: When the climate changes we will adapt, or not, other species will adapt, or not, and new species will arise, over the millenia things have changed and our planet adapts. HM. OK.
The thing is, that for a long time I have thought of humans as giant germs or a great cancer slowly but surely killing our earth. We prevent new species from coming in, introduce species which in the end choke out old species, kill living things to prevent them from establishing in the environment, because in the short term other species cannot adapt, we rebuild beaches being washed away naturally by the tides and currents of the ocean, build on flood plains and then wrench our hearts with the awfulness of tragedy when they flood. Build below the existing waterway, destroy water, trees, plants and animals all in the name of our dominance over the earth. A cougar or a bear in our front yard? We kill it, though we are the invader in their territory. We even do it and have always done it to other humans. We want your land, we take it, we slaughter other humans so that we have access to their resources.
And yet we are resistant to culling ourselves. Resistant to stopping ourselves from populating areas that should be left alone, move around the globe establishing ourselves in places where there are already existing populations of humans. As we begin to explore space we are like a metastasized cancer. Spreading out to new planets. What if intelligent life out there one day views us as an invasive species that must be eliminated. What if we are visited by outsiders from the universe, and we decide they too are an invasive species. Hell the whole immigration debate is about preventing an invasive crop of human beings. Right? They take our jobs (zebra mussels kill off other species of lake life), they use our resources (they eat the food other life forms want to eat), they don’t learn our language (they form their own colonies), but too there are good things. What would the US be like without tacos, or salsa dancing, or latin music, or the architecture and art of Central America. What would the Great Lakes be like if the Zebra Mussels had not spent the last several decades cleaning up the HUMANS water pollution?
It is human beings who are invasive. And I have thought for a long time, that the Bible should not have said humans have dominion over the earth, rather that they are care-takers of the earth. But the Bible says love one another, but I suppose, not the invasive ones.
Sitting on the front steps, I want more than anything to go to the park. I hesitate to go, but I cannot let another persons mental problems stop me, I talk myself into it, I have to go, the dog wants to go, I am itching to go, I must go. I pull into a full lot and take a route that I don’t really like, it is strenuous and the dog trips more than once on the rocks. Early in I feel the sore buttocks muscle (from my first ever attempt at Frisbee Golf – which was way fun) pull and spend the whole walk struggling with any uphill climb. It hurts, but nothing that cannot be babied into shape again. I have had so much on my mind, existential questions, deep curiosity about the path God has me on, worry about the future, but I begin to relax into the hike, even as I pass the deep crevices and step rock drop offs. It is as though each step is a path through my own existence, the deep scars in the earth, like the scars inside of me. I think sometimes I will break apart, I want to withdraw and become a hermit, I want to disappear pound by pound until I am a wraith. I feel small and insignificant, I want to be even small, I want to walk these paths unnoticed.
A recent visit to a health care provider I haven’t seen in several months, a woman whom I admire deeply, told me today, as I was leaving, that I am looking so good and whatever I am doing keep at it, because it is working for me. I reflect on this compliment, given out of the blue, for no purpose of her own that I can discern. I know that even though my weight has fluctuated several pounds this year I know that my clothes are looser, even though the weight loss is not terribly dramatic. I feel really healthy. Except for these questions that are plaguing my thoughts, I am confused, I am lost, I am uncertain. I need meditation, but the only meditative thing I am doing is Tai Chi Chih. But what does it mean, really? Here I am with so much darkness clouding my vision, criticism weighs heavy on me, and these kind words, are unfamiliar. I almost can feel the world spinning around me, I am like the first abstract painting ever submitted to the academy, I am a subject of my own ridicule, I am a hideous creature that hides under mushrooms, a brownie, a troll. I am like a heart that has been broken open by a Barbie Doll, plastic body swinging and bashing all the life out of me. I look at my big hands, I look at the tummy that never seems to go away, I look at the thick and muscled sturdiness of my legs. Tears fall as the Barbie constantly crashes into my bloodless heart.
The path is so dry and I am concerned for our changing climate. This winter has seen only 48 inches of snow. The least snow I have seen in this region for 44 years. Today it was 80 degrees, students wearing shorts and flip flops; experience has me putting a wool sweater and wool socks and sneakers in a bag in the trunk of my car, I cannot trust this March weather, it goes against anything I have ever known. On my way home last night I was shocked to see magnolia blooming. And today at the park, the tell tale green and brown spotted leaves of trout lily or as my grandfather called it, adder tongue. I watched a program on public television last night that was helicopter views of Hawaii’s islands. I was astonished by the incredible beauty, and I am determined more than ever to save money to go there one day. They spoke of a close connection to the land, a recognition of the connection we all have to the living earth. I know this feeling as I walk these deciduous woods, as I see the familiar spring plants pushing through the decaying leaves of autumn, as I smell the scent of spring, but I am awkward in this too hot spring, I worry that I will not be prepared should normalcy return. I worry that the earth is preparing to exact some kind of wicked karma on unsuspecting innocents, like the Children’s Blizzard of 1888.
She is not here today and I rejoice, I have enough in this world of feeling lost, I do not need her input into my brooding melancholy. Although, it never seems to fully leave me, and is a part of me as long as the schizophrenic days of March, but even that has changed.
I am confused by it and by so many other things in my life right now.
I am posting this for a fellow blogger friend who has been gracious enough to give me two blog awards for my other blog. I am filled with gratitude! Yesterday she posted a picture of a rare plant which she called istanbulensis which I discovered is a variety of crocus, I knew it was because the minute I saw it I said, why that is a crocus, and wikipedia confirmed it. So these pictures are for her, and to remind myself next spring when the crocus bloomed. Today it is so warm out that after I took these photos I immediately ran in and opened all the windows on the front and south facing side of the house. The whole entire week is promising temperatures in the high sixties the lowest being 53 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday which will be a full ten degrees above normal for this time of year. Weird weather year.
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard