Traveling On 

  
Emerging from the mountain forests, Dunsmuir.
 
A few hours’ sleep at a rest stop north of Eugene and we rise early to greet the day bleary-eyed. Hard travel brings back the days of recent college graduate pals taking a road trip across country on $300.00, Michael Jackson’s Thriller playing on cassette the whole way. It was the 80s. 

Passing through Redding, CA, I thought of you Holly and wondered how you fare. I saw your telephone listing for a massage therapist in the Redding White Pages a long time ago, which has not changed–no email address, no Facebook or Twitter listing. Maybe you no longer exist except in a journey I dreamed. 

That trip marked me, the wonder and adventure of freedom: two young girls setting off to see beauty up and down the west coast and across the Rockies to DC where Holly’s pastry chef boyfriend awaited and our fabulous meal at the Watergate Hotel with chef Jean Louis pulling out the culinary stops to impress him. Best meal of my life up til then (not hard given my humble beginnings). The VolksWagen bug Don had us drive, the one built by a friend, gave us hell, but I would not have it any other way. That VW thematizes the adventures and misadventures of youth without plans or time to savor–just doing. 
  
We laughed getting high and chasing deer in the Rockies until Holly got altitude sickness and I was tasked to figure out how I was going to get her out of the field and back to the car. I was so thin then, her too, which was unusual for her. She tended toward the thick. Her green eyes were fierce cat eyes, her brows perpetually shaped in perfect arches, a gift of her mother’s singing praises of electrolysis. 

I still see her putting on lipstick, covering the thin bottom lip and then using that lip to coat the nearly non-existent upper lip. I watched that so many times. I coat my lips the same way, when I wear lipstick, which is not often. And I think of her doing that each time. Amazing how time sticks to the bones of memory, especially from youth. I recall reading that those early incipient memories recall to mind the clearest due to their being memory-etching first-timers, before much clutter dulls a mind to narrowing newness.

  
The green of Holly’s eyes are unmatched to the green everywhere outside Southern California, which refreshes always. Flying into LAX continually reminds me that I live on a desert, brown and brimming in short scrubby smatterings of life thrust. The effusion of greenery near Portland contrasts starkly. Of course the cloudy skies also remind me of why. 

We search for breakfast. Driver’s choice so I prepare myself for sweet, blanched flour French fine pastry.

I have married my father, someone always looking for the next meal, the gourmand’s preoccupation. Only my father feasts at the other end of the culinary spectrum: Burger King hamburgers and fries.
   
The Columbia River pours by in majestic pines, thick lush Douglas fir lined highways guided magisterially by the Cascade mountain range overlooking its charges. Keep green. Between the Dalles and Hood River, the sun bathes the trees, big leaf maples, Ponderosa pine, cottonwood and Oregon white oak, green glossy frost. The heaviness of the dense foliage leans in to the road with a threatening call. 

Crossing Bonneville dam, the daisies line the road spotty white among the tall wheatland grass and Western hemlock. Mountain crags, humps of black rock jutting through the pines decorating its crown like liberty, pop from nowhwere. Stone walls line a country road nearing the cobblestone bridge. And the clouds hover and stare.

  
Deforestation scars the mountain tops, golden grass exposed through the sparse trees, soldiers left standing in the war against industry, disrespect for the land, chunks of the grab gone for timber. Small vineyards orderly tucked behind a hill also pen the hand of man on nature’s back.

Hairy rocks, like my old man’s shoulders. What grows there on the spiny rocks fungus stained hard knocks of geological story?

4 hours outside Spokane.  

The four hour rest at the truck stop outside of Eugene refreshed what little remains of our spunk and patience. Traveling with two teens and their corny-humored father wears the patience of even saints. I am no saint. I am not remotely patient.

The mugs and the fire burnished hills, repaired by time and patience, sprigs determined to fulfill their seeded destinies. 

The Columbia Gorge, a myriad of textures and vertical measures, scrubbed to ethereal. 

  
And the sterile blanched wheat colored hills remind us that altitude changes flora. The high desert provides stark contrast to the lush landscape of the Gorge. We must be headed to Spokane soon. 

A huge expanse of farmland and chaparral heading east to Spokane peppered with silos and green houses on near barren landscapes under a great polka dot open sky. The clouds form cotton balls. Water sprinklers look like sin here in a drought. Perhaps Oregon has forgotten our drought. California certainly has not. Water will drive the next world or civil war, I am reminded.

  
And the car ahead contains my two daughters speeding up and leaving us behind. Somehow that seems destined.

The hills are dusted with aqueous green scrub, mid-high interspersed with deep forest greens and kelly greens, hunter and sage too. The nature paint protrays delightful. Somehow I think artifical irrigation is the cause.

Umatilla Irrigon region.

And she is gone. Her sister will wean her these two weeks before returning as the lone twin of upstairs living.

  
He complains of the enormity of it, the lack of planning, the endless driving non-stop, sleepless roadside napping round the clock and the expense of renting a van with its out of state costs, yet the real vastness of disbelief is in her leaving. While nothing is ever permanent and kids go off to college and come back, live back at home, the leaving and living on her own is an indelible shift forever away from the cocoon years that stretched from conception to that first departure. 

She has left her childhood behind for good as the step back in will always be from a distance, a retrospect. Like unringing a bell, she cannot ever live the purity of those flexed years of growing up seamless from birth to first steps, first walking away to another’s hands in school, first kisses, first heartbreaks, and first flights of freedom. Thoughts of self, identity and independence color a life once only colored in coloring books, backyard swimming pools, trips to the candy store or tear-stained shoe box coffins for small beloved hamsters named Hammie. 

  
No, your beef, man, is not with us, our slap dash, rag tag impromptu impossible road trip, the one with endless miles of road bearing insights among the natural sights and blights of countryside and cityscapes of the northwest, sorely needed respite from the daily doldrums of grinding work hours and spatial deprivation you also complain about as likely to kill you. 

And here we are speaking lightly of the shame of it all, the clear cutting demoralizing the Oregon hills along the Columbia, deforestation in the Amazon rain forest and water wasted on the open expanses of thirsty crops along the Washington thoroughfare while our first born worries about being good enough to last, to make it under the pressure of intense competition and her own perceived weaknesses. 

  
Struggle coats our innards, the outside world only the mirror and consequence. 

But I caught a glimpse of wince in you yesterday, the pinched frown of devastating knowledge held in check–but not enough. Despair leaked from your downward cast lower lip and fallen eyes, a momentary slip of the heart spill. 

“You okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just Jordyn leaving.”

“I know.”

And we each look to our respective windows for escape into the landscape upon which we hurl our pain masked in observation, a costume of the fearful. Tears haunt us. Afraid to unleash the avalanche of suffocating cold loneliness threatening to smother us.

Bass Clef of a Mistress

  
credit: http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs41/i/2009/055/e/6/___Bass_Clef____by_cheinrich1981.jpg

A parade courses through my days,
one of twitters chirped from devices and trees.

An avuncular path leading back to my ears
sounds the thrumming pump of plasma drums.

I can hear my blood when the music starts,
like the rhythmic stump of dog tail in mid-scratch.

Silence moves me too in humming refrigerators,
ticking clocks, and buzzing transformers above.

Door knocks muted wood of knuckles shy
jar my attention in irritated curiosity and dread.

Like the broken peace pierced shrilly,
a dog barks inside echoing plaster and tile.

Water pour-sliding down pipes in gushes
forced like fingers hard-pressed on a fingerboard.

I hear the memory thrust of my grandfather,
his fingers crushing mine high atop the cello’s face.

“No, like dees, you put like dees, here!!”
A stranger loved in osmotic care for a family’s music.

Wind cries rarely as do the clouds in this desert,
so the trills of trickling rain sing sweetly suckling tears.

Muffled voices beyond closed doors wordlessly
play mornings mostly before the whispers of evening.

When the clanging of aluminum, teflon and iron
ring the truth fed in tones nourished by hand, we sing.

Our collective voices intone in the eyes of intention,
a shrugging will, and love-notes tucked in school lunch sacks.  

And when the confetti clears, the bass drum moves on,
the choir of antiquity will accompany me, soloist, alto, sotto voce. 

 

 

Living by the Numbers

 
credit:  https://danutm.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/big-data.jpg


I am a woman who wades in numbers,
soak myself in abstract configurations;
I jet-stream massage statistics to know,
find the answers, solve the riddle of it,
the non-numerical, innumerable queries
cried in words, a seemingly literary call,
but responsive to figures and values one
of twenty-four-seven and three-hundred
sixty-four in sixty times fifty-two or so set 
give or take, plus or minus, more or less.

“I’ve got your number,” no one ever said,
but clichés are like that, ubiquitous stain
on creativity’s spine like the cafe au lait 
spot on the leg or neck, a birth mark blot,
red, brown or invisibly zero’d out erased.
Countless ones perched in memory slate
have added up the sum total of me, mine,
all I ever was and will be with smug sure 
black and white like chalk on the boards
while flunking 365 true or false quizzes.

But not you, caresser of amassed details,
not data strokes, the airy waves of ideas
you throat-throw in fast, furious pitches
speeding in, aimed as weapon or homer,
at me batting less than top ranking 1000,
an average way below that .264, a mean,
the high and low of its streak of 9 no-hits;
I can never catch up, analyze every word
to track your wins from losses and defeat
the purpose, our aims on par, hole-in-one. 

We sport and play, linger and dally over
tenderous scars and spots, skin wounds
that narrate each misstep, spill or crash
we each separately, singly, absorbed in
seconds of lost sight, a blink of timeless
clicks of the clock in a silent living room
when we were youth without any history
past an endless future of anything goes.
But now, in lengthening hours, sun light
of sinless spins marks us immeasurably.

When you and I are old enough to know
that the feet we were, those inches along
the road miles we never traveled in truth
did not matter as many or few glimpses, 
insights into the relativity of relationships
fleeting and forever moving us in spaces,
places of perspectival generosity, a glee
of open doors, 1, 2 and 3, any alphabet
of understanding what counts, laughter,
touch, dream, a lantern glow in the mist.

I am a woman who drifts by the numbers,
ten by ten, mostly, often two by two-some,
just to tease the moment with complexity,
a game too many of us weak minded play.
“Age doesn’t matter,” you say, yet it does
to those who count; we count on them too
to whisper wordless songs in even tempo,
carrying the tune of eons engraving aural
flesh in a lilting lullaby, humming mindless
motion that apes the arrows of linear time.     

Stewing Storm

image

I stew, seethe and sorrow. I am a woman.
I love.

There is a yearning. It penetrates the wall of silenced fear.
A slow ache, amorphous yet round all at once.
Closed circle.

I am broken. I was never really fixed.
It’s just that I feel the lack of a whole now.
I age.

No longer I bear the one way pouring.
What goes out must have a coming in.
I am sere.

My mind teases out strands of sense.
They float above my pavement feet.
I waver.

It is time to be honest, let it seep in.
Some people must die and go home.
To free me.