The thing is, I have lived so good, so nicely, so careful, so small. Too small. For over a year I've been peeling off the girl scout badges, hatching from that pretty little cocoon and I'm realizing now I've only just begun. I don't want to be a comfortable size, a comfortable volume for the unnamed shadow who might be offended. I'd rather tell stories about that one day I got naked and jumped in the glacial river because to not do so was bleeding my soul dry.Read More
Filtering by Category: Sketchbook Writings
[Two weeks on the road, driving through the interior West, sleeping under the stars, living out of the Jeep, watching our skin turn brown, racing to the next lake, food cooked over flames, scratching bug bites, and most of all, just living. Seeing. Hearing. Intaking. There was far too much, and simultaneously just enough. These are the smallest snippets of sketchbook writings, list makings, and memories.]
Here is the thing about those first few days: It was all about the Lake. Driving east that first day, six hours later than we had planned but leaving one spotless house behind, I felt the pangs of excitement rising up right alongside the temperature and the altitude. But it was diving into that chest-clenching initial shock of clear water that loosened something too tight for too long. It was all about those gleeful moments of ridiculous hysteria when the scales that cover your throat fall off and the only noise to be heard is laughter. Laughter at the joy of swimming with your dobie, laughter at the way too-big bikini bottoms put on a show for shorebirds, laughter at foot propellers, lies about water warmth, puppy package shrinkage, and the holy glory of seeing nothing but a thousand rippling waves under blue skies.
The second night we walked the lake edge during the golden hour, light slanting sideways through trees and illuminating the choicest wildflowers. I felt the second layer of scales fall (how many do we have? how many do we simply live with?). The shafts of sunset hung heavy and hot, the dogs were panting before we had even walked a mile and I regretted changing into jeans. It was here, through the brush and bloom and aging deadfall we found a low spot in the banks. Freyja barreling in as the fish-dog, swimming out towards foreign mountains for the sheer joy of it, Sancho tentative to swim deeper than his legs could reach. For a moment I debated, but the beads of sweat behind my knees and the cool of the lake demanded stripping down to naught but skivvies and jumping all in. Water on skin, pond grass between toes, hiding from the passing fishing boat with snorting laughter and again, that bubbling joy rising up to loosen the scales.
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The air held that sticky heat, the kind that nestles into the folds of elbows and knees, the kind that renders down sleeping bags utterly useless. Laying on my back, eyes closed, I could still the see the light of the waxing moon through my lids, through the trees. He was hot. We all were, but I rolled over anyways and laid my cheek on his chest. The Giant Dipper spooned down between the ponderosa pines, reaching in vain towards the lake and I couldn't help but storytell myself to sleep. I imagined the whole pantheon of heros and goddesses relegated to the night sky, sweltering in this high summer heat. How one clever immortal must be up there, spooling down that great ladle of stardust to scoop up sweet cold, the bargains being struck for a single gulp of sweet, earthy waters. I wondered if the Pleiades swam in this very lake, the same one I could still smell in my damp hair. I wondered how may others, for how many thousands of years have laid on their backs in this same forest, gazing at these same stars, whiling away the evenings storytelling the morals of their ancestors.
I should ask the pines. I know they've listened over countless fires for countless years. I'm glad my voice has now too risen through their boughs, along with the sage I burned and the tale I spun.
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- Last night, 4100 ft. elevation, on an unmarked forestry road -
The wind picked up, ushering in a swift and swirling end of day. I now sit in the Jeep writing, marveling that not ten minutes earlier I had been walking, bare armed, in the last streaks of sunlight. Now the trees around me sway and creak, the wild flowers bend double, and I'm fairly certain not a mosquito is left buzzing even though I still bear their presence in angry red dots on my forearms.
Earlier today I said to myself, "If I do not stand upon a mountain, feel the open wildness around me and the sheer room of heart, I will surely perish." Dramatic words no doubt, but one of the joys and trials of being me is that such words hold a core of truth. I was afraid of perishing, right there on the hardwood floor with the sounds of the city and worried dog tongues as my only witnesses of passing. And so at the most unlikely time of afternoon to begin an adventure I filled two water bottles, a jar of granola, and the gas tank, then drove east. No plan. No destination. Nothing other than "mountain" and 'solitude" and "I'll know it when I get there."
Now I drive in silence with the windows partly down, even after the rain starts. I need to hear the rush of rivers under the bridges, to smell the air so green and ripe that it makes me aware I'm too clean, too well scrubbed, in laundered clothes and mascara. The cold is creeping up the valley but I want to shed all my clothes and let this fierce wind perfume me in mountain air. But instead I open the windows all the way and let the rain stain my sketchbook, my face, my hair. I try so hard to remember scents, but a scent is so far removed from words that it is hopeless to try and explain it.
These evenings leave an imprint of an experience. When I wake tomorrow I may remember the long whistle of the birds on the far side of the valley, the handful of salmonberries I crunched on, the stillness in the woods that let me know I was the largest mammal around, the fog that held 1500 feet below me. But I won't be able to recall that scent, for it only belongs in a place such as this.
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