Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7

The temperatures now plummeting well below zero & the snow consistent, with solstice approaching & the low-slung arc of light that passes for day painting the mountains in alpenglow. I think of rosy-fingered dawn when I, long awake, see that roseate hue bathe the sloping angles. & the closer to solstice, the less that light changes, such that the day entire (all five hours of it) is appareled in that same coloration. & then one’s days seem like a wandering about in a dreamscape the magnitude of which only further confounds it—the only thing calling you back to its fundamental, mineral reality the cold.

I’ll be bound here for the holidays after all, & won’t be seeing the flatlands & the cornfields & the palpable heft of the Midwestern grey sky spread thick above the prairies. Instead, it will be the quiet Alaskan winter, the dogs, the trails, & the plunging mercury. It’s hard to describe how winter here makes you feel, physically, mentally—how the darkness & the cold seem to spur such richness & an almost tactile sense of self-awareness. The heat of the woodstove or the draft from the window, the ice in your beard after only walking to the truck to start it. There is kind of physicality to everything, tempered by extremity or shelter from it. This likely has some significant metaphorical weight to it, should one care to extrapolate a metaphysics, but I don’t think I’m much inclined in that direction at present. & maybe that’s fitting—that the phenomena trump the taxonomies that hover auratic around our every breath. A fine reminder to keep undivided my attentions on the present.

& the present, anyway, still wears the sheen of some gift given. Though I balk at one or two daily details, I find it hard to do so convincingly. My cabin will be sold & razed, which puts me in a rhapsodic mode of nostalgia after what I’ve been through within its walls. But again, it seems fitting enough to literally dismantle the place that palpably wears those marks. & we’ll be able to settle into wherever we move, & share our space & lives, & build anew. Fare forward, wrote Eliot. Fare forward indeed.

Monday, December 6, 2010





Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20

A weekend spent outdoors, mushing two days from the yard on Stampede & then skiing a seven-mile loop from my front door in the Village. & in the meantime, playing music with good friends, cooking some fine meals, & generally finding myself fulfilled from one moment to the next. I’ll be brief in saying so, but given the pending holiday & my pending trip down to Texas for a week, I’ll say only that I am unspeakably grateful to be alive & to inhabit this life among all the others I could have lived. Happy Thanksgiving, friends & family alike. Whether or not I ever find time to articulate it, those that I love are a constant company to my thinking & living & being.

Also, a few new flickr pictures & the mushing blog goes forward too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 7

I am looking at this curious photograph of a 94-year old great-grandmother holding an eleven pound premature baby who spent the first four months of his life in the hospital & who still requires quarantine due to the fragility of his lungs. & though I know the child’s parents, he is a stranger to me, as is the frail old woman. & her eyes regard the child with a tenderness that seems to speak in years, while his own fawn over distances making shapes & conjuring the world into the familiar. What life will he lead? & then, towards its end, palsied, fragile all over again, what child will he hold in his shaking hands? & where, I wonder, always, where does that living go, that meaning that seems to call from us with such blazing intensity? All of these days fugitive & irretrievable, & then as we age our fingers seem to clutch tighter those things that intimate our own mortality. A child’s eye full of vitality. The wild countenance of a threatened moose bucking its forelegs at a passing truck. A sunrise in which the trees articulate the horizon in labyrinthine silhouetted line. & the curious thing of it is to know in earnest that the entire enterprise is nothing short of miraculous, even while we have no idea why. I will die one day & my body will be put to flame & I will cease to be.

I think often of the graveyard just past the farm in Salem, with its slumbering tombstones swallowed in their various angles of disrepair by the wild, untended blades of grass & prairie weeds. The engraving on some of them is so weather-worn that even in running your finger across the illegible scroll, nothing sensible returns to the faculty of reason. As if the name were written in chalk. & then others have crumbled into several pieces, or have fallen flat & been covered by creeping lichens & moss. & the swelling ground is unkept. You hear the swish-swish of the willows, the soft thud of the occasional black walnut on the dark soil, where it, too, will burgeon with rain & desiccate under the sun & find no purchase in that forgotten place. You want to hear more, sense more, feel some ghost at your side, but there it is, instead, the natural silence of forgetfulness.

The farm is instructive in that regard. Those battered frames of the old cars half-buried by now in an ancient dirt, leaves wind-drifted in heaving wet piles on the seats, the wiring splaying out & rusted, the windows long since shattered. Or the out-buildings all sagging & struggling yet to stand, & within their doors nothing to shelter over but stray two-by-fours & stale rags & hardened dog shit & leaves, always leaves. Or the obsolesced farm equipment scattered about, as if abandoned suddenly & without further consideration, mid-plow, mid-augur. Even the old Massy Ferguson, with its white pillow on the red seat rain-bloated & tired, that corduroy blue heart quilted on so many years ago faded & denimed with sun & neglect.

& yet for all of that, it is the life of the place that recalls itself, even in the consideration of what has irrevocably passed from it. If I think on grandfather’s funeral, I recall standing around the burn bin with my uncle & my brothers. Or I think of getting bleary-eyed drunk with my cousins, raising our cans of beer in salute not with the feckless abandon of our youth, but with the reverence due the occasion. I think of my dad’s crowsfeet, my brother in thick glasses, my quidnuk aunts in a tempest around the house while yet it stood. & all of that life, all of that meaning, takes on precisely the same pallor as its recognition of what is past. How striking the sympathies between past-grief & the cherishing of the present, between loss & fullness. I can find myself overwhelmed with love for my life, for its cast of characters past & present, & that gratitude can pierce my chest & feel identical to that sweet melancholy that recollection affords us. We grieve, when we do, out of love, I suppose, which makes a fair amount of sense. & then when we love, we recognize inherent in it always a pending grief, maybe, a looming farewell. One that spells out the years & awaits what cannot be avoided. & our grief & our love both some swift monument, some demarcation that substantiates us, however briefly, before we, too, absent the world that we clutched all the while so tightly to our breast.

Which is to say that the context of our lives likely holds neither coherence nor design nor lingering comfort, but what we carry along in our own remembrance & haunted continuum does, insofar as these elemental congruities reveal themselves whether or not we would conjure them. & they do, they seem to, with astonishing frequency. My heart can ache for things I did or didn’t do twenty years ago & I can find that ache twinned in looking past the window today. Not that I want to file both under the same category, but that ache can recall itself beyond our rational faculties, & then of a sudden, when I thought I was just standing with my forehead to the cold pane of glass looking over the tundra suddenly I am also holding a handful of grey stones, readying myself to cast them through the glass of some old jalopy while acres away my grandfolks sit inside by the too-warm fire.

Friday, October 29, 2010

October 29

& now the snow, falling in a frenzy through the night & dissipating into slow, meandering flakes now, turning in the discernible breeze against the languid grey of the sky. Enough that it clusters & holds in odd patterns about the burls in the birches, or tendrils out along the spruce-boughs to where they cluster in cone. & that smell it brings, a kind of metallic, airy cleanliness borne aloft in the fine gusts. & now we watch it & gauge its accumulation & look at the dogs & beyond at the gaping miles of wild untended & we wait for it to hurry along.

I’ve decided to document this first year of trying to learn how to mush. It seems too singular an enthusiasm to disperse among the rest, or maybe too dominant a one to let determine the general hue of things. I have this for you, my four beloved readers:


Or I have it for myself, in any case. There is little there just yet, but over time, I hope it proves one of the instructive artifacts of a past recalled. Or some sounding board for the present clamor in me, anyway.

& otherwise, little else, but thinking mostly how curious to live a life that I so routinely interrupt with effusions of unprovoked gratitude.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 14

Winter like a fledgling, the first tenuous flakes of snow sheening us here, the first intimations of real chill. & already, those last vestiges of autumn covered over, subsumed in the gloaming. Winterlight. Winterdusk. Winterdawn. They are their own things entire, & inexplicably, profoundly beautiful up here.

& an odd time for me personally, stepping into the season that so drastically came to alter me last year. I feel the visceral memory in me yet, the quiet, the patience. & then look up to see my heart content this time around, joyful, present. All of those months last year when in the yawning silence it was only my own feeble whisper I could hear. & startled, then, at the sound of it, the little, fragile thing. A bird’s tiny bone. I think on what endures, on what is yet extant from that long season, & suppose what remains somehow sacred & central. From that beehive that murmured once & then fell resoundingly quiet, the small flame at the center batting off shadow. A me in me to recognize, to foster as a familiar. How curious, this life. How curious that I am here, here at all.

My life, whatever it will entail, will owe a debt to last winter’s sea changes. Pupil before a loneliness & a kenning heartache, I learned in a winter what I could not the lifetime prior, & my gratitude for it is ineffable. So slowed, attenuated to something dear. Well, to the snow, then.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October 2

There was a run I did last year along the rim of three lakes during which a golden eagle flew directly over my head the entire time. He never forged ahead or lagged behind, & when I would stop to regard him he would perch on the bough of a spruce & regard me back & then wing along when I would run again.

& last winter it happened several times that along my runs in the snow I’d properly packed I would stop short twenty feet from a wolf, & we would stand there for a moment & look at one another, eye to yellow eye, & then we would continue along, the wolf into the copse of willow, & I along my path.

One of those winter runs I heard a plaintive bleating from across the way & looked in time to see three wolves bringing down a young caribou. I saw their dark forms silhouetted there against the pale snow in the hushed light of the morning, just inside the tree line, writhing in a violent torsion.

& I have come upon grizzlies that were magnanimous or apathetic or scared shitless, any one. Twenty feet from a full adult who didn’t care at all that I was that close. & then two hundred feet away from a sub-adult who sprinted down a mountain to avoid me.

I read that when a crow electrocuted itself on a power line in Fairbanks & its lifeless body fell to the earth below, it was a matter of minutes before hundreds of other crows gathered around & seemed to literally observe a minute of funereal silence prior to again dispersing to the four winds. All of them encircling that one expired bird, a kind of quiet black cloud. I’ve heard magpies are the same way. That they mourn. A behavior characteristic of the corvidae.

The wolf researcher up here who died last year wrote a bit about how wolves reacted to grief. He observed several members of a lupine family walk off into solitude after a pack member’s death in order to pine & keen independently overnight before returning to the others. They had no other occasion to isolate themselves in that heartbreak before or after.

Earlier this year, during the first intimations of spring, I had a dream that I came upon seven owls hovering over a dwarf alder, luminescent, emanating a warm light. When I awakened in the morning I stepped outside & where I stood, an owl looked down at me from the tree above & let out a gentle hoot. How I felt the spine in me.

& then dogs, always dogs, in their honest joy.

Maybe just to say the nature of these things takes over in time, supplanting another kind of human reason, & how grateful I am for that most days. I know so much about a world that doesn’t exist, not really, & so little about the one that does. It’s been a slow education.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20

Several days now successive of bluebird skies & sharp light & the underbreath of winter through the scattering yellow leaves. That auratic sense that only autumn can provide, of the soil smell, & the swaths of crimson, & the cranes flocking south & everywhere, everywhere, the crisp sun. Season of mist & mellow fruitfulness, for Keats. & for me always that attending sense of crepuscular gratitude, if that quite makes sense. How full its fleeting moments, simply because so urgently fleeting, & into & out of such a rich kind of beauty.

Maybe it’s how time seems to lay itself bare for autumn, & how the heart clamors across that landscape. Or maybe I’m doing some temporal accounting anyway. But I feel my childhood bodily come autumn, feel its fugitive joys & its small ruptures in all of their original tenderness. & I feel the scraping wind, & the sunlight settling over the plains, cut in crooked, palsied shapes by the boughs of the oaks & elms & buckeyes. See the long shadows yawning over the stubbled aureate ground. I feel the dry skein of a cornhusk overlong in the heat. Think of the farm, the woodpile against the cold grey stones, the bifurcate branch of peach tree in my hands over the old well, the black jalopies with rock-shattered glass. Or the creek in the valley in Ohio, where we’d cross slow through the water. Or nights falling asleep in the back of the van driving down to Missouri, staring out at the passing night, supine & comfortable. Trees overhanging the lake in Minnesota, & the starshine cleanly reflected at night, such that to swim in the water seemed akin to swimming in the darkling, light-punctured sky. Which is all to say maybe what I love so about autumn is its nostalgia, its collision of urgency & careful recollection. What we were & who we were across those braided strands of our having-been, & how fondly & deeply & dearly we can engage in remembrance even as we notice how irrevocably far we’ve come from those beginnings, how vast that unbridgeable gap between our old selves & our new. Which is everything at once, I think—lovely & stabbing & comforting & celebratory & plain old sad. & how we emerge from our pasts into the violent wonder of the present, over & over again, & find ourselves somehow continually surprised, continuingly overwhelmed by beauty. What a thing, that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September 3

Here the autumn sweeps in again in its dappled vermilions & russets & blazing golds, & the crisp light sieving the world in fine shadow. The frosts beginning in the morning, temperatures hovering around freezing & rising only slow & languid through the waning daylight. & autumn here absurdly beautiful. I walk slack-jawed & awed by it. Yesterday, we walked towards Carlo Ridge, forgetting moose hunting season began on the first. The trail splays out, ten feet wide, rutted with horseshoe prints indented where the mud gives & pulls their legs down. We turned & headed back to what may be the most plentiful patch of blueberries I’ve found. The dogs, after observing us picking, have taken to berry eating, & slowly, methodically, plod bush to bush nibbling carefully to avoid the dun leaves. Willa’s paws show streaks of stained purple. Moose, I think, may well have swiftly developed a keen addiction, given his particular vigor & voracity among the berries. But there is something to it, pausing, kneeling down in that quiet, hearing the soft sound of the dogs leisurely in their eating, smelling the sweetness of the loam & tundra. Raise your eye from that scene & wonder how ever you could leave it. I am tendriling into the ground here.

& otherwise, it’s the thought of mushing now occupies the bulk of my thinking. I look for snowclouds, I hope for cold. I spend more time with the dogs in the yard, talk to them about the winter, about my thrill at the thought of it. We’re all ready for the shift, for that blanketing quiet to fall over us, for summer’s dizzying pace to slow & abruptly halt. I am worn down, decidedly, & I am turning my eye to the Labor Day flush, when the boards go up over the windows & the buses disappear & with them the hordes of visitors. & then it’s just the wide open empty park, & the snow, & the sound of the wind, & the long & lovely yawn of winter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14

That trip to the glacier a kind of repositioning for me. You feel subtle shifts, time to time, or tremors, or intimations of something in the throes of change. & then there are precise instances wherein you seem reaffirmed significantly, or redefined, or something akin to either. How you are, & how you are in relation to the world—how much a part of it. How the novelty of going into an untrailed wilderness for the first time in any extended capacity seemed to dissolve into an utter familiarity, a kinship almost. & how in so doing, these details that confound the intentions of our days fall from us, absolutely unable to find purchase or sympathetic ear. Which I sort of love, really—that transformation of daily pressures from their gathered urgency into not only a kind of circumstantial impotence, but a complete inability to mean, fundamentally. & in their dissolution, as rehearsed as it may sound, I find myself closer to myself, living without context. & I think I sort of love that. I think I sort of need that.

The trip itself took us south from the East Fork bridge, seven miles across river bar & easy tundra. We skirted an island in the drainage where a sow & two cubs seemed intent over a kill site. & in our passing, we saw three, four caribou, & then five or six more, until a herd revealed itself near an alluvial fan behind which we were to set up camp. & the herd would grace us twice daily—towards the toe of the glacier in the morning, back out to the tundra to forage in the evening, twenty or thirty strong, & we would regard them from beside the tent twenty yards away, the scree slope behind us angling upcanyon.

A day hiking onto the glacier, the heaving moraine a study in slow, violent torsion.

& on the way out, gaining a ridgeline, I came upon a subadult bear tucked into a concave swath of tundra about 200 feet away. When he caught my scent, he fled at full speed down-mountain, his sudden fear somehow greater than my own.

Along the same ridge a few miles down, a pack of seven wolves fanning out in hunt, falling in to line, again & again, their running like water flowing around out-jutting boulders midstream.

(& yes, sitting under that rock with the two rainbows yawning overhead, with the rain trailing us in windblown coma, calling that expanse what it was, naming that expanse within)

& returned now with the appetite for more. Here at work circumstance & detail appertain & choke & coil all about me, & their stresses run in tendrils fine & twining until they speak through me & I don’t know the voice I hear. But how they fall from me sometimes, & I need only a handful of words. & how I’d have them fall again & again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23

Wordsworth noted how recollection is always a form of reanimation—a breathing-into that conjures into dance the ghosts of the past. The idea was to direct one’s contemplative focus in an effort to recreate whatever circumstances seemed redolent with meaning, & to conjoin the present mind with the newly animate whilom feeling in a coeval creative effort. & so a childhood excursion across a meadow of tall grass, a leaf’s spine stuck in the sedge of the Thames, or a visit to France, or the death of a friend years ago, or the faintly lingering acrid sweetness of a flower pedal long since turned under in the loam & soil. & it would seem that he earnestly believed that the two could come together without compromise, or without enough distortion to merit fundamental suspicion. & maybe as a matter of forging a poem, forging his poems, that can make sense—if that particular faith in the sameness of what is past was what lent his better work its spark, it’s a trifle to dissect it. After all, wonder inhered, word to word, & the bygone world sparked to life in the better poems retains still some of its distance, of its irretrievability, which seems somehow the important thing. But still the thought of that continuity grates at me. That assumption of totality, of life as a narrative strung catenary from identifiable cause to quantifiable effect. & meanwhile, the ghosts in us will do what they will do. Our memories will rearrange, dissolve, & the categorical hold in which they are harbored, too, does something very much the same. & the past apparels itself in varied hue under the shifting gaze of the present, such that it is, it would seem, entirely reconstituted with each experience. (Thus Eliot in “Tradition & the Individual Talent”). & so how odd, then, to see the chasm widen between what was felt enduringly in the presence of another & what is felt now. How surreal to witness that slow growth, & to find its old stories unfurled, its old pages weathered & yellowed, thick with swelling rain. A becoming or a having-been, & maybe it’s not that we choose so much as that we listen more acutely, or learn to, or hope to learn to. That we read our pasts differently from our shifting vantage, & find that in the absence of that particular vitality that we only feel in the actual experience of things, our relationships with what has passed become less eschatological in their induction. & with that halo relieved, we seem them plain & plaintive, closer, perhaps, to what they were underneath the burning design of our desires. & we breath & breath, but find no ghost with arms akimbo, no tableau suddenly reanimate, no unbroken chord in protracted resonant harmony. We don’t want to believe the ruptures of our past are finite. What we retain in memory we believe is dually retained in the actual world. But it is not our world to tend, & it is no mirror to us besides. & its song is neither elegy nor dirge nor crafted thing at all but the same slow quiet of something passing beyond our grasp. & we can gain its access, but only just so, only for a moment, only as an inaudible gasp in millions of miles of untended wilderness. & where, then, our fictions?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July 17

It’s a fine point, the prior comment. There was roughly a year of my childhood during which time I was so thoroughly convinced that I was in fact a dog that I abstained from speaking the king’s English & opted instead for barks, grunts & whines. & my food in a bowl. & as I understand it, much to my parents’ credit, they did little to discourage the delusion. Certainly, my brothers would have done everything in their power to foster my canine sensibilities. What spurred my transfiguration back into the human fold I do not know—only that I sort of resent it. Dogs achieve a kind of perfection, utterly given to phenomena, utterly incapable of dissemblance. A dog’s joy dwarves the moderated human’s. Maybe in childhood or in moments of unparalleled exultation in which the will folds in upon itself & ipseity gives out completely. Otherwise, we are bridled, reined in, filtered even when we perhaps ought to let an emotion unfurl in us to its fullest conceivable degree. The ratiocentric mind wants what it wants, a semblance of order, a scaffolding by which to build the narrative of our days & weave each one with the next into some seamless whole. & so where does rich joy fit into that, or play, or sudden, graceless rest? This sounds increasingly like a greeting card with a glossy picture of a drooling lab on it, I know. But all to say that I have the utmost pride for thinking myself a dog for such a long while. What an extraordinary accomplishment, out of all that I have done & seen.
There was one trail run in New Mexico, Rio en Medio, where Wils & I bolted beneath the looming ponderosa pines, their fallen needles soft underfoot, the swelter of the creek parallel & that endless azure sky filtered through the boughs overhead. That smell of sun in the ground, the pinon, the muted footfall. At our turnaround a few miles in, when she was in front of me & I called her name, I could have sworn it was her spirit I saw, so complete was her joy. She was literally aglow with contentedness, & if I were less wary of sounding like some Santa Fe pseudo-metaphysician on a Castaneda trip, I’d tell you that just then, briefly, she seemed transcendent, auratic almost. & that smile she wore has never left me. Running back to the trailhead, we wove in & out of one another’s path, our steps rhymed, counting off the same cadence. There was a fluidity of motion that seemed to dissolve our distance. & that seems the particular talent of a dog—to erase instantaneously & completely the associative detritus we bring to them & to pierce directly that part of us wanting after earnestness & sincerity & simple joy. & I can safely say that I relied on dogs to usher me through the now-done darkness of the winter. Piper, Autumn, Maximus & Moose, & especially Cinder-pup, who seemed to have that peculiar well-pool of quiet wisdom & frenetic puppiness in his eyes. All of them told me to wait, to wait. & then Willa come home to me, & every evening I hear her sighs & snores & think it the highest companionable grace. Humans are alright, after all, but I’d not trade that year as a dog for anything.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11

There is something to it. Even raindense, or wrested behind some window or heavy door, that light filtering through the marled cloud. The seagreen tufts of wet needle clustered under the boughs of spruce, or the windblown white of the one we named dogflower, or just the sound of the rain over the corrugated roof, the felt curtain blown just so. Or in the sun, dappled willow, the sibilance of the aspens. & I can do nothing & find its grace—ask nothing of it, expect nothing, & still, its gift.
You grow up thinking on other lives like books unread on a shelf. & suddenly you are living some old tale, some familiar trope that has been your steady carriage the years through. & your imaginings are such brittle things, & the wind is very real. The x-ray & the light. What you regarded once in some other’s telling & colored in hues presently unavailable. Which is to say, I think, inhabiting a dream from childhood clothes you again in childhood’s robes. Or that childhood dreams through you when you enact its old longing. Or that we can grow towards a simplicity. Or none of the above; I don’t rightly know. I think of Gide’s Narcissus, or of the Prelude in its entirety, of a river flowing backwards, toward its origin, wherein every reflection is borne in regress, fled. & so our time is only to give, witting or no, & our every breath already fugitive. & each word always another’s. & it isn’t that I think some atavistic Eden awaits us—this is how ideals work, after all—but nonetheless I regard the absence of logical architectures with a particular reverence. We delimit to hem in, “murder to dissect.” & while struthiously denying the absence of any & all complexities is no better answer, I think maybe under the right contexts we can at least sieve all of that through some filter that lets us wonder yet. I am pressed by daily exigencies even if they are not mine, but I know better than to believe them rooted. Every narrative unthreads eventually. But in that a kind of freedom.
Which is all maybe only to say I that I am thinking about how I live my life now in comparison to how I’ve lived it in the past, & that comparison finds me grateful, in the end.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4

After the family leaves, the sudden cognizance of distances, of miles untended. & the house’s new quiet, tempered by the having-been. The floorboards I didn’t hear in their creaking, the wind in its rustling, Willa sighing & looking towards the door. My remoteness less a conceptual thing now, more tangible in me. The lines on the map sinews stretched taut, arteries ushering blood from me & sending it away, away, some gift unbidden. & with that, the textured memory of how I came to be where I am. Something about seeing my family conjures my life entire & seems to flush my heart with some longing after irrecuperable years. I think on childhood in no particular way, am ghosted by remembering & feel that fell, that odd confluence of loss & warmth & sentiment that demarcates for me the passage of time, causes a swelling in my breast, underquiets each word. As if some rend in the familiar continuum through which that wake must run, from which the mind & heart can eddy unto a calmer shore. & it’s not that recollection is anything but beautiful—it is, always, whatever its shifting focus—just that somehow there is yet that child in me that wonders desperately at time’s erosions every time I see them anew, & can find in that wondering no sufficient logic to explain what tolls time exacts. With my family I still seem to myself something other than this adult I am. I am newly perplexed with myself, more so than usual, & find only slow reprieve from that renewed befuddlement. & how curious a thing, that.

So back into the texture of dailiness, with that love lingering around me yet. The house a warmer place for it, though, ever.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 12

That’s the thing of it there. My brother just wrote about how we err in historicizing, either by reanimating some epochal trait in some sort of grotesque charade that can only draw caricatures where portraits would hang, or by letting temporal gaps close up like scars over old cuts so we regard the mark & forget its cause. Either way, seems to me, there is a kind of valuation that goes forth, advertently or no. That act of separation, of differentiating either by the guffawing condescension of the present or, well, by its graver counterpart performing the same exact function. In any case, the past is set apart, fetishized, exposed ostensibly as a wake of obsolescence falling out behind us like the coma of a comet. The present gets privileged, in all the wrong ways. & the difficulty here is not that the past is passed; invariably, in the mere act of being, our recollections will perforce enact those reanimations & set those ghosts to dancing. Maybe the problem is that in thinking those ghosts external to ourselves, we forget that their vicissitudes are our own, that their reorientation resets our compasses, rewrites our pasts, restores our foundations. Like the old time travel caution against sparking some chain reaction that will wreak havoc on the eventual present (see: Marty’s hand disappearing). But when we re-collect, we do just that, & our inventory comes up altered in every instance. Maybe our accounting changes—certainly, no act of remembrance carries with it all the rhapsody of its initial phenomenon—but we aren’t so squarely ruptured from ourselves that we can’t find some breath in it. A wistful one, maybe, or winsome, or elegiac in some necessary way, but somehow it seems to me that elegy keens so when it finds its echo ongoing. I do not think for a moment, for instance, that my grandfather is still alive, but I can smell his flannel shirt & hear his gruff voice making its curt demands, & maybe in that small way his memory is alive in me. Which has nothing to do with his consciousness, mind you, & I don’t for a moment think that we remain discretely individuated (if ever we were) beyond our passing. Just that while I am alive, in my consciousness, there is an animate version of the man, of an other, & a sense memory that can conjure past present without hesitation, however diminished, however faded.

Maybe all to say that none of our alterities, temporal or spatial, seem to fall from us completely, but settle instead in the hollow concavities of our thinking & our bodies & our deeds, no matter how self-consciously modern or novel we would think ourselves.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30

Note to self: sleep more.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 14

But then that, too, a kind of sounding, an architectonics all its own. A sort of script. A preface. & there’s the thing of it—how we surrender ourselves to experience but cannot let go the thought of the thing, the conscious presentiment, that dim intimation of structure. & so a moment in which we feel ourselves perfectly conjoined with phenomena holds its rusted anchor yet, & the wave washes it over, & still are we tethered, bank-chained, rooted in that grey-blue alluvion that we allow ourselves to consider at rest & ample for the root-room. Bed down, then, silt & shifting pebble. Bed down & begin a constellation.

Which is to say that there are no daemons but in our faiths, no rubric of order but we would draft its design in the first. No news here.

& this, too, an echo. There is in Keats’s odes a gradual unclenching of the fists, a slow & ponderous relinquishment that seems to me always somehow relevant. It is how thought works on the world, I think (or the obverse). The first odes are presentations, & then they begin an erosion & fall swiftly into deeper & deeper chasms. & the fingers clutch the cusp of reason, bend its compass, hang upon its sickled needle. We read the dissipation of that nameless faith, see that clamoring after efficacy reduce itself to the mournful dirge of the gnats over the river sallows. We see proclamation shift into question & fall into interrogation before finally reason seems to despair of itself & withdraws completely in the autumn ode. & then it is a silence ringing a try at a truth, or a human silence anyway, absent the hemming & hawing, absent completely those companionable daemons that concepts provided Keats early along. Nothing is insinuation of an alterity. Or everything is, entire. It is a stubble field, or a swallow, or the haunting smell of the cider press. & the hand withdraws, lets it be, posits a space empty of human utterance. & oddly, it is Keats at his most perfect.

Which is not to say that our utterance does not matter. It does, I think. It merely does not matter beyond ourselves, not really, not enduringly. Or if it does, it means like a ghost means, like a small flame throws heat, like a constellation can conjure a wolf, or an archer, or a bear. An imagined taste that cannot touch the tongue but sits restive in the thinking. & so we gather our faiths like tools & build worlds that we can fathom, & all the while the unfathomable, just there, just where we let our faithing cease.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 1

This morning a fine, almost particulate snow, a spring snow, a dust feathering the air against the blue-white whorls of cloud & sky, & the sun meantime casting the falling flakes against its rays. These kinds of mornings. The peaks of the mountains enshrouded in newfallen snow, falling still, while down at elevation the ground breathes & swells just above freezing. & where the snow has receded, the colors seem to shock even in their tired, faded hues. The vermillion at the willow’s stem. That first pallid green. The puzzled landscape.

The last few days I’ve felt a kind of tremoring incredulity at the simplest things. Words falling into line, the hand reaching from plate to mouth, the slow whir of the truck’s engine. In the minutiae this strange & bewildering ontic fact reflected: I don’t understand being at all. The heart in us, the yearning, that indefatigable longing. I don’t understand the beauty around me or my want to embrace it. I don’t understand the passage of time. I don’t understand how we are compelled to do these curious things we do, to rehearse them, to abide by their scripts. I don’t understand our faculty for ideas—their efficacy, their value. Why we are taken or overcome or possessed by some vague notion. & how we measure one against the other, as if an enduring fascination with social systems, say, is somehow more valuable than a similar regard for orioles, or television programs, or the spines of leaves. I don’t understand how so many things came to be, so many things that I employ daily. Where words took shape & crawled trembling from some old shadow. Where they adhered. & why anymore it is not widely encouraged that one invents words, or worlds entire. I am thinking of late that our reason is a flawed reason, that our logic is some thin veil to our fear, that our lives are things fully attenuated to faith. & a faith that has nothing to do with a god, but instead the trembling & heart-bright assurance that we are doing something right (& not right in the sense of good or bad, but in the sense of being not completely devoid of meaning). We measure action against sense, I imagine. Against our underlying faith in the abstract capacity of our environment to confer upon our endeavors a kind of satisfactory response. & where there is dissonance we seek some alteration. We look for balance, we can say. We call one thing by another’s name, & neither of them flesh what we feel into substance. & I understand that these systems provide us with a scaffolding, an architecture for the dailiness of our lives. I understand their necessity. But lately they impress me more with their elaborate ornamentation of malleable nonsense than with their solid & convincing inflexibility. We build the girders, after all, don’t we, & then we gawk at the rubble.

I think I’ve had this same thought all of my life. Which is why, I’m sure, this all sounds more like the ramblings of a four year-old than an adult. But maybe adult questions are tiresome just now. Maybe they sort of hover over the sheen of the world without really ever touching it. Maybe they don’t empty you out like they should, anyway. Or like I think they should. But then, what matter really? I will not care for my author-ity tomorrow, I don’t suspect. But for now, it is today yet, isn’t it. So that’s something.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23

& now come spring, & absent of exigencies. The same calm breath, the light lingering to wane later & later, & the dawn daily more impatient to rise. & I still seem to myself a part of some ebbing current, almost other, almost witness to the passage of this own slow time. It’s not from distrusting happiness so much as participating in its inchoate shaping. Maybe it’s that the idea of contentment seems enervating, ultimately—some means of acquiescing to a feeling rather than finding its harmony in you. Contentment makes an assumption about time that I’d rather not make. It is enough, for now, to merely be. & in a day, maybe it’s the falling feather from the owl in the white spruce, or the opening brown-black gap of a puddle, the gentle wheeze of the pass, the scurrying tap of the magpies alighting on the corrugated roof. The eye makes its appeals in a language beyond our own, beyond the gymnastics of our thinking. Which seems the riddle.

Odd to think that time antagonizes us, or that we would play hostage to its passage, measure it out for what it thieves from us. Though we do, almost invariably. I think the will an extraordinary fiction sometimes. To consider ourselves as anything but permeable, utterly vulnerable, always already intertwined with alterities that branch & tendril well beyond the scope of our vision. It is tired, I know, to wonder after the boundaries of the self. But it is this Herculean project of weaving strands of disparate, shattered meanings into cohesion that bewilders me. This obstinate refusal to allow for ambiguities, even as the manufacture of the vagaries that seem most often to compel us goes forward at all hours unimpeded. This warp a severed thing, without origin. This weft of borrowed cloth strung.

Why I am preoccupied of late with meaning-making is beyond me. It would be tiresome to another I’m sure. Perhaps it is this landscape, in which scope renders self-significance utterly & immediately negligible. Or the way I am carried along by time, writing my name in a cresting wave that will bring it to dissolution some day upon a shore I cannot yet imagine. & there, clotted sand & mica-speckled pebble, the slow erosions, the liminal fluxing, our inevitable erasures. A goodbye.

But here, here, it is only the sound of that water, its gentle song, the brittle leaves caught in the currents, the stubborn boulders strewn haphazard & cleaving twain the tide, & I some buoy ferried along, some wind-fanned reed, some brief reflected arc of light.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13

I am thinking about how cleanly divergent thought & feeling can be—two ghosts with no cognizance of one another, haunting the same tired house. & how powerlessness can sting me so, crop up from some long-dormant regret to stab & swiftly withdraw. how in thinking about the irrecuperable past it is our nature to rhapsodize over conditionals, over conjectures of what could have been, when in any case here we are, our palms upturned, our hearts in some heavy wake, or some spirited discovery, or lulled instead by the soft, plain music of the ordinary. that none of it effectively matters. & that it could not matter more.

maybe, maybe those twinned ghosts can have names, & one of them can be the nihilist & the other the solipsist. & both can drag their spectral forms through the relief of shadow thirsting after some bright light that will never come, & both can feel the blue-black umbra of the moon, the color of a raven’s wing catching a silver arc of refracted star. & both can pace the floorboards & hum & flicker, & any eye that beholds either can widen, relay the fear to the heart, let the heart relay the fear to the fingertips, which rise, rise to the whitened face. & so passes the night. & then the roseate dawn, & the specters fade, & time, time seems to open out from itself again & to permit our obliviousness its daily trespass. & suddenly the memory of the ghosts, too, thins & dissolves, form into smoke, whisper into susurrus, until it comes to cusp teetering where our recollections are swallowed whole by their erasure, & the breeze comes just so, say, & it is fled from us too, with its wake of exhausted fear. another irretrievable thing.

& so. where now those ghosts? & how changed the ground beneath me? the snow upon the soil. I cannot believe that I mean anything in this world. & I cannot believe otherwise.

& so we cull our recollection for what is reft from us. Pound, he was wrong, after all. what thou lovest well. & our remembering is a reanimating, & those ghosts move now differently than they did then. it is an act we will them to perform, isn’t it, to accord with our shifting want. but they are never there, never really there, though we look & look & look.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 27

A year now since we severed, since I compassed north & let the floor fall from beneath me, diving headlong into something entirely unfathomable, some gift given purely in the phenomena of the daily. & how momentous that swift rupture. How our hearts clamored against it & knew it for its necessity at once, somewhere limning resolve & unspeakable remorse, the white fingers clutching the steering wheel & the body borne along while the mind wondered & that heft of grief enwreathed the heart. Laid bare, this new way of being, this new way of carving out a day. Some faith in uncertainty, some awareness that under the foundational intricacies of any given plan, a chasm of yawning, quiet chaos tendrils & vines its way slow about the footholds. What we would hold.

& so the border crossing, the surreal stays in yellowed hotel beds, the soot-grey snow mounting in walls lining the highway, the recognizable signs of human life dwindling as I found myself further & further north. BC. The Yukon Territory. The border again. Jesus, to think of it now. Such a tenuous, frangible time, my heart a thinnest bird’s slivered bone & my will this soldiering, trudging thing carrying me beyond the scope of a word. & in me that odd confluence of opposites shored against one another & elbowing for room—a gasping sadness & a surging exultation to reify an old, half-forgotten dream; the unspoken commerce between the familiar & the entirely new. What selves in me then, what selving, going forward unbidden.

Homer. Denali. A visit or two, a final flailing cry, speaking those words across thousands of miles. I am going to say I love you & then I am going to say goodbye. & all the while, here in the quotidian, in the daily coming & going, was revealed something previously only dimly adumbrated—a me among my days. In protracted hermitage, or in this wilderness, or among friends, this firmer sense of my being, of my being here. & each day this gratitude the richness of which I cannot describe. I hold this life, delicate thing, with a care & wonder to make me weep. To love a thing so. Find its beauty, its darkness, its light, & know its breadth, know how it flashes, briefest buoy against an unremitting tide of circumstance. That I am here at all. There are no such things, I do not think anymore, as small dreams.