Cold winds and moonlight

sparks from mesquite bbq, halloween, 2011

It’s the starkness, the windswept landscape, tangled black manzanitas with gnarled twisted fingers that point up to the dark sky that take your breath away.  The flicker of light from the campfire illuminates a tiny ring compared to the vastness of the countryside.   Ridge line after ridge line, stacked one upon another, ever higher as they proceed off to the west, the place where the sun disappears.  For some reason the stars are hidden, a veil of mist high up obscures the complete show that was expected, instead rendering a rout version, something phoned in, a night off so to speak.

The circumstances dictate that sleep is not allowed, or at least until voices disappear, the first light of morning is seen.  Once a parent, always a parent, regardless of who’s children you maybe overseeing.  The recognition that there are all manners of threats that exist, whether it be a trigger happy rattler, a marauding pack of bears descending like locusts onto the camp, or snarling mountain lions circling ever closer to choose their meal for the cold spring morning.  Then there are also the others, fellow packs of campers dotted throughout the plateau, couched in various stages of sleep and awake states.  These, the second group, the others, are the thing of most concern, something to cause a sense of unease, to keep ones eye open late at night, to be vigilant.  Odds on there’s nothing to worry about, yet when overseeing those new to the outdoors it is better to error on the side of sleeplessness.

S and I wandered down the aging cracked road, taking a break, seeking silence.  A glass of pinot in hand, we eased down the hill, until we arrived at number 13.  The camp space was absent of cars, seemingly  intentionally empty due to its number sake.  Who in their right superstitious mind would choose a campsite with a unlucky number as an address for a night?  Easing onto a rock next to it, we noticed a short distance off, a distressed tent, barely erect, seemingly abandoned in haste, sitting idol and in need.  Cigarette butts littered the ground, obviously someone in a nervous bout, smoking one after another, probably as they stared back at the wreckage of their tent, and what maybe inside.  All of these clues were soaked in as S and I sipped slowly, smiling and laughing in the dusk light.  Ten minutes later, break time over, we wandered back up the hill to begin preparing dinner for eleven.

Tall grasses line the only creek, polished boulders remembering the scouring water racing off the mountain sides on either wall of the canyon.  Gradually the further you wander downward, a catch of boulders creep ever closer to narrow the stream bed, and then you reach a dead end.  Deep pools of cold water are found within the cracks and crevasses, sunlight splotched between trees and rock that tower overhead.  Tucked at the top of a precipice, a respite from the sun and heat can be found, swimming can occur, rest within shade found.  Two sides can be recognized, the first being the fun of time in the water with laughter, or the reminder of where one is, at the pinch point where fierce amounts of water tore at granite, moving boulders with marshmallow ease into this one place where there was only one place to go, and that was nowhere.  The boulders wedged within the canyon were slowly melting away year after year, millimeter by millimeter dissolving into sands that washed down the canyon, down sloping to the sea.

Around the campfire they sang, enjoying the last night before heading back down the mountain to the city.  Blistering sun gave way to cold night air, a waning moon dozing overhead, the flicker of city lights peeking 50 miles off in the distance between the edge of two mountains.  I think it was then, listening to the young charges trying to do all they could to remember the moment around the campfire, the countryside that they had explored, that a sense of melancholy was heard.  A desperate tone of wanting to reinforce, to state over and over the memories, to tell the story to one another so that it wouldn’t be lost or forgotten, within this, S and I understood the sadness that comes from happiness in their lives.


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Tiny Cities

untitled 5, 2011, cement, oak, steel, by Sarah Seager

The light that comes from under the door, flooding the linoleum, teases shadows as to what is going on the other side.  All manner of mystery, intrigue and imagination can be given over to it, ‘Did you hear a voice’,  ‘Who’s there, do we know them’, and ‘What the hell are they doing?’, punch about the head as possibilities, potential story lines.  Plato comes to mind, with his first year under grade theory of caves, shadows and forms that boggle the noodle in ones head, endlessly repeated through centuries.   ‘Yeah’, you tell yourself, maybe that’s the point, just seeing the ephemeral, and who knows what’s really there.

Being of course outside of knowing what is actually on the other side,  illicit’s all manner of questions.  In reality, things change, a career is altered, new geometries and geographies are discovered, old ones remembered.   That is the blood beauty of it all, noting that something is on the other side, just itching to turn the handle and waltz together through the door to discover what’s just obscured by a simple panel of wood.  There are all manner of possibilities, frequent flyer miles to be gained, mountain ranges to examine from great heights.  Touching down, a new landscape is poured over, instruction sets and protocols to memorize.

Yet, before the handle can be turned and the door opened together, both parties are unanimous within the choice.  Lucretius understood, plotting the seasons, the rhythm with which we dance beneath the sun, groan within the night.  Smiles, along with a laughter of knowing that the shadows are ourselves, waiting for us to join them within the future, composed, created, and ready.


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Insect bites

Alexander Calder's 1951 work "Bird" Bird, 1951, by Alexander Calder

The incremental changes that occur on a daily basis are never really seen nor acknowledged, except in hindsight.

They describe the place in terms of it being Mayberry (the fictional town for the 50’s show that can still be found in the nose bleed section of cable channels late at night, provided as a community service for easing late night suicidal thoughts), smack dab at a hundred miles from any metropolitan center either west or east on the highway.  They describe it as a place where everyone knows everything about everyone else, in intimate details that may or may not be the reality of what happened or occurred.  They describe the countryside as pristine and mild, sitting on a thrust of land that over looks forests and twisting rivers that carve the countryside into bisects of islets and pastures.  They describe the movement of time as being different there, a central time allotment, dragging with an ease that can be heard in the drawl and song of the words spoken and heard.

Who knows what the reality of it will all be, whether the promised Mayberry will turn into a purgatory, measured with a testing of ones metal and acumen, or instead far exceed all expectations and truly be the eddy in the stream.   Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, time effectively spinning quickly away.  The opportunity though, is the pace, space, and cadence that can be offered.  If all goes as planned, fireflies will once again be viewed rising from the grasses in the early July heat, dancing for a moment in light, before falling from view to the wet earth below.  S by my side will begin to see the world that I tried to describe, not like Mayberry, but of ancestral spaces, filled with twangs of speech, and summer rains that choke the air with thick humidity, cicada songs disturbing the nights darkness.


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In-between Moments

Two Hoops, 2011, by Charlotte Bracegirdle

And we wait, pin cushions below the couch pads, needling intermittent stings as time passes.  Is it central Tennessee, San Francisco, Seattle, Florida, or New York City that is just beyond the bend on the calender.  To not know is difficult at times, yet within an exhale of breath it in turn makes for a reminder that the present is all the more dearer and pending.  Every single moment that passes is recorded and remembered, knowing that something is about to occur that will lead to a completely new future.  Exhausted, each day is ended in a heap of dreams that twist to different corners of possibilities, outcomes.

When they were young, beyond what they may recall now, summer evenings were spent deep within the woods, at high elevations, cold nights.  The lake set out in pristine waters, a canoe waiting at the bank, life preservers moist from morning, the smell of campfires, bacon and coffee scented the day would begin.  To explore and discover were the only options for the day, when they are young there aren’t quiet moments, only movement.  Sitting not far from the shoreline, Bear Island patiently beckons, a sandy beach for a landing, a picnic, isolation.  They explore protected from the surrounding woods, knowing that the water that encircles us creates the perfect barrier, a fenced yard that prevents any potential for being lost within the forest, worry, anxiety.

Forty two hundred kilometers away a woman sits on a beach, shaded by an umbrella, accompanied by her young daughter who explores the sandy shoal, various family members coming and going.  Sunglasses cloak her eyes as see watches yachts and speed boats pass into the protective waters of the inner bay, the air breathing salty warm in the summer humidity.  On the other side of the harbor a city brims with tanning lotion, ice cream cones, the laughter that comes with a holiday away, a respite from all that waits at home.  She extends her legs out, feeling the hot sand between her toes, bits of scallop and clam shell, smoothed by water and salt, are collected and dropped one at a time, there is no reason to rush, she reminds herself.   Switch grasses patch the cliff line, separated through the relentless winter storms that batter the shore, easing into a summer calm that speaks of relief.  The young child grows agitated as the sun shifts, and is gathered close to be comforted, restored.  Will she remember this, or will just I?  She smiles at this thought, rising from her seat, into the sun to begin the short walk through the meadow for home.  Each step back to the summer house brings her closer to a nap, a fan blowing warm air that chills the skin into a late afternoon sleep to prepare for the evening rituals.  Together they will rest, until the sound of a cannon sounds on the distant shore, signally sunset, the beginning of a coming July evening.

And we wait, just as then, geographies collapsed, time unified, still waters seen in the coming distance.


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Easter cold

Sarah Seager

An all out war has occurred, the internal struggle of wrestling with exterior world that tips on the edge of spilling out into everything.  And it all started with a simple conversation, finding out answers to rather quirky questions.

Stepping into a problem, or looking for the solution to a perceived enigma, the analysis leads one into shadows that only raise even more questions.  That which may have seemed confused or troubling, instead becomes crystal clear and dumbfounding.  The only reason for this, is by discarding the demarcations of time, the notion of years, decades, and lifetimes.  A flash of activity dims and appears to be gone altogether, yet is actually ever present, glowing with the tautness of an ember.  We all like a good show, something bright and pretty that is easy on the eyes and senses.  Push it and it oozes softly, conforming comfortably to our own notion of pleasures.  Cotton candy, taffy, bright pink and tasty, illicits shocks to the system in sugary highs that pass into stomach aches and migraines.  No red meat, fat, tissue can be found, nor marrow to feed the system, just sweets, filler.

Yet, it’s the tough thing, the stubborn canker that sits there unassuming, not demanding attention that speaks volumes.  A work that on its own is free to become disconnected from its creator, to exist unto only itself, disconnected, but bound only by a navel like mark or fingerprint that is imperceptible to the common viewer.  In this work, time has been relinquished, released.  Being set free, it wanders its own path forward, occasionally being discovered by a new set of eyes that can see what was hidden to those that came before.

And that’s the struggle, to sit and notice, to see and understand this difference.  Trapped in time, not set free like the work, bearings and sight are lost in the blindness of the moments that pass.   A bolt of lightning is all that is needed.   The echo of thunder wanted to ring, shaking the beams, rattling the glass, waking the world out of its slumber, to dim and ease back into unsettled sleep.


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The Upside Down

Yves Klein the void

I would like to believe that everything follows in a linear path, that one step leads to the next and not three steps back.  Yet I don’t.  When you consider that the further one goes down the road, there’s potentially more to travel back to revisit, this complicates the idea of trajectories.

But is it really worth seeing all again?  When you know the ground, the lay of the landscape, the players involved, the endless cycle of repeating behavior, why be surprised.   We would like to believe that the outcome will be different, the words changed at the end of the conversation, yet instead, nope, the same result.  At the start, during the awareness, self recognition, there’s a push back.  But as the years pass a gentleness enters, a recognition that what they see, or have suffered through, is comparable if not worse than what has been seen with ones own eyes.

Compassion, a gentle warm breeze passes through, scattering small leaves about the ground, memories from long ago.  It is the passing of a torch in many ways, the handing back of a flame, an ember that they once held.  There’s no way to determine when, only that it will occur, and must at some point in time, as true as breath and a heart beat.  The hope is to be there with smiles, to leave all clothing at the doorway, only as one self enter, speak, see, and then pass forward.

One concentric circle follows another, gently tipping to touch the other, then bowing in the wind, upward and away.  Hovering, stacked one on top of another, they extend upward in a quivering mass, slacking to maintain balance and control.   In an ever present hum they vibrate with life, tied through tangent and touch to those far above and below.  In silent streams they illicit a quiet light that eases into gentle notes of base note sounds, resonant, encompassing.



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Mirrored glass

One and Three Chairs, 1965, by Joseph Kosuth

One and Three Chairs, 1965, by Joseph Kosuth

For the second time in less than a week, a train headed downtown loomed up in the morning.  As for commutes it couldn’t be easier, wandering down the hill in a straight shot, standing on a platform exposed to freeway traffic in both directions searing by, becoming a blur after a minute or two,  just long strings of racing objects going passed.  In the distance the metro inches closer until it is upon us, and then we are gone.

Each trip represented a different purpose, yet each was interconnected.  Questions to be asked, listening for responses, reacting with new sets of re directs and followup.  One focused on catharsis, the other on conversion (the discovery of a format for retelling another’s story), with clairvoyance and intuition being the realm to speak within.   Meandering through ravines, passed houses gated, expanses of vacant land littered with brush and dusty roads, the train heads skyward before stopping forty feet above the city in Chinatown.

The first trip, days prior was off to the east, to a colony surrounded by the scent of diesel and tire rubber.  The second trip demanded a grounding into traffic, high rises, hills, and cluttered sidewalks, burrowing in small neighborhoods of charm and originality.  Five hundred yards in either direction led to a completely different perspective, a new view of the surrounding world.  And in this was solace.

Sitting in a coffee shop, a roasting machine spinning hot beans, a jazz band banging through one tune after another, rain falling outside the open roll door, we sat and discussed the commute to the east.  What is the story?  Where should it go from four floors up, and how ambitious should it be?  As the details were poured over it became clear that what was seen as a problem actually was the solution.  The genesis was a question desiring an answer.   The answer created a far ranging set of new questions that delved into tangents that spoke back into the main question.  Circular, yet encompassing of an honest desire to explain the connections, to follow the thread to its natural (or un natural) end.

Returning, riding thoughtless, empty headed in a good way, through the sun baked avenues, seeing people out about there ways, can only cause a soul to laugh with a giddiness of a child.  Street level, feet cranking the pedals, a joy can be found in the passing traffic, and pedestrian filled side and crosswalks.  Exposed to open air, smiles can be seen, conversations overheard, smells of ‘us’ (all that humanity creates and stews within) are all about.  Swerving down a side street the train tower is found, rising above everything below, sleek and clean.

Standing on a platform once again, the sun glaring out of the west, an understanding and compassion is found.  The question isn’t what or why the story and answers.  The question is why even ask the question of ‘how’, but allow for it to just ‘be’. And whatever may come will follow.


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