Passage

The sun has yet to rise above the horizon. Stars peak out behind branches. A transparent cloud eclipses the quarter moon creating an effervescent glow. I want to stare at it for days. I want to swallow the moon and feel the mystery nourish me like a sumptuous meal of meat, wine, cheese, and fruit picked fresh from the trees. I want to embody her spell. I want to breathe it in like air.

I find a dead raccoon and snap a picture of it. I find a dead possum, withered down and eaten to the bone. I poke at it with a stick. It looks like a snake the way its spine stretches out resembling the letter S. I’m struck by the aliveness of it; at any moment, I feel as though the skeleton is going to pop up and sink its teeth into my skin.

It’s that time of year. The veil is thin.

We’re camping next to a creek. Each morning I stare into the water’s surface searching for nothing in particular.

For three days I sit with the creek, leaving only to walk or eat or sleep. I don’t realize I’m spending so much time sitting and listening until afterwards when the ravens echo in my ears and the babble-babble of water returns with a memory of silence transporting me from the noise of a crowd.

One night, before sleep, I make fire and speak love with the flames. The embers betray darkness. The smoke wafts like incense.

Camping out, the body hardens over night, yet how strange it is, because as I fall asleep the earth feels soft and supple, a welcomed embrace. The woods are both cradle and lullaby for the magic child who’s alive in all of us, but forgotten, covered over by years of headlines and institutionalized education, buried in jadedness and dashed expectations. In the woods, freed from the confines of buildings and politics, dreams run rampant, winding with the feralness of rivers.

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I waver between staying in tune with nature and staying in tune with the news of the day. It’s an odd balance establishing ground in both. They whisper little lies about one another. “The world is falling apart,” say the newspapers. “Everything is in perfect order,” say the cycles of the sun and moon. So I listen when I can to the earth, who speaks of both the hardships and the marvels.

There’s an absurd humor at play, seemingly always.

One day prior to camping, we’re driving along Highway 101, when all of a frightening sudden, there’s a loud BOOSH!! and the hood of the car flies up and smashes our windshield. I quickly pull over to the side of the road. Cars whiz by. Horns blare and honk. Out of the corners of the windshield, where there is a sliver of visibility, I see roadside plants and yellow flowers brushing the sides of the car. We come to a complete stop. I get out, shook. I can’t believe there is no other damage done to the car, and more importantly, our bodies. We nearly smashed through a vineyard. A local guy pulls over and runs to our assistance. He gives us a ratchet strap to re-secure the hood. We take a moment to collect ourselves, make a few phone calls, then drive off to the nearest campground to await the morning when we’ll have the windshield replaced.

What a trip.

There was a good bit of wiggle room in the latch of the hood. Initially, we secured it with a zip tie. Two years ago, we drove like that across the country. Every now and again the zip tie would break from either heat or pressure, and the hood would rattle, so we would pull over and replace the zip tie. It worked until it didn’t. The latch must have bent back just enough, and the hood nearly wound up in our laps.

As I’m driving along the curving roads of Sonoma County, passing picturesque landscape after landscape, the rows and rows of grapevines neatly lined up flowing with the rolling hills, the sun reaches its golden hour and filters through the trees. It’s my favorite time of day (that, and dawn), because everything appears so animate. I feel a moment of peace wash over me and thankfulness. Every now and again the rays catch the webwork of cracks in the glass, refracting the light, and tiny rainbows spread across the splintered windshield. It reminds me of a cracked iPhone screen, and I can’t help but feel inverted, like I’m inside the phone looking out, like I’m inside a dream being woke, like I’m inside the hands of death musing at the spectacle of life.

Can You Peer Through The Madness

She was tired. Not sleepy, but tired. Her brain and her heart were telling her to disengage. She felt drained. She was losing her grasp on hope.

She was tired of politics as usual. The constant bickering. The unreality of so many issues. She tried to get involved but found herself unable to relate. She took up a cause when anger sparked in her soul, but more often than not, she was aloof. There were days she drank too much coffee and scoured the news for articles that said something of substance, for words that she could sink her emotions into like the fangs of a spider, yet so much of it slipped by without the faintest hint of compassion. She found time and again, it all led to disillusionment.

It was so strange and surreal.

She was repelled by politics yet couldn’t shake a deep desire to stay informed.

She was tired of the self-help gurus peddling happiness and joy. She understood people needed it, words of encouragement to keep their heads held high, but it made her wry. Everyone was full of so much shit and wisdom. Whenever she found herself in a spell of sadness, her friends tried their hardest to pick her up; she was grateful for that, but it all sounded like new age propaganda. Although she wanted to share her darkness, she often found people unwilling to explore those places with her. Everyone wanted to fix it, but she wanted to be present with it, because she knew whatever was going on within her heart, it was fleeting.

Her sadness spoke with her in the same way the moon spoke with the ocean tides.

She ran to the woods time and again. It was a break from the daily rhetoric. The leaves understood the language of death and dying. The damp ground understood what it meant to be receptive. Especially when she was menstruating. She wore a long dress with nothing underneath and let the blood drip down her leg. She moved through her garden, her period seeping into the life of plants. It felt like a holy thing. A magic communion.

She spent time walking with bare feet, connecting with the slow breath of earth. The pulse of the soil meeting the sole of her feet. It was invigorating. Under the dark of the moon, she danced and spun and lost herself. Her identity became detached and fluid like a dervish whirling in the wind. When she worked up a light sweat, she went down to the rocky creek and washed herself clean.

It renewed her spirit. She felt part and parcel of the forest, as though she returned home. The stars glittered in her hair and her eyes danced full of fire. Off in the distance, coyotes cackled. It could just as easily been the laughter of her dreams.

She knew well enough that her trips into nature served only as a temporary respite. A solitude at the edge of the world. At some point, she had to return to humans and suffering. To headlines and concrete. To the subtle push of advertisement and the daily competition to be seen and recognized. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, but too many flippant opinions made her head spin.

It seemed as though everyone was sensitive, yet so many were unsure how to handle such a gift. All too often people erupted from the sheer pressure of being tapped in.

From time to time she attended the theater. It was a threshold space for her, a doorway between everyday existence and the imagination. A kind of enchantment that sufficed when she wasn’t seeking the peace of trees. A play done well created semblance amidst a chaotic world. It brought little glimpses from beyond the veil. It ravished her attention along a taut line of tension. It heightened her emotions to a cathartic release. But what she liked most, it was so very communal. A way to be with people in the real, to share laughter, fear, awkwardness, and surprise. It was a tangible fiction. A collective creation that filled her with life.

When Memories Supersede Landscapes

As we long haul it across the country, I’m reminded of a man I met on a bus maybe 3 years ago. We met in Atlanta.

He was an educated man. In his late 50s. He was interested in poetry and philosophy. I can’t remember if he was a lawyer, a real estate agent, or a psychologist. Regardless, we talked about everything from consciousness to entropy. The way the world is simultaneously falling apart and evolving. He told me about his passion for collecting tribal art and his interest in drum circles and spirit animals. He was a bear. He looked like one. He told me about his grandmother and the Native American blood running through his veins.

After chatting for a short time, he came around to telling me he had just gotten out of jail. He kind of slipped it in there. I guess he wasn’t sure how I would take it. On the one hand, I wasn’t surprised. It’s a strange thing that happens to me. I don’t know why, but it’s not the first, second, or third person I met on a bus or a train who had just been released from jail. Often times, the characters are rough, rambling, and unapologetic. One guy I talked with told me he was more or less a lifer. I asked him what he meant by that, and he said, pointing at his watch, earrings, and tattoos, “I like expensive things. I like to dress good and eat good. I love to party. I make easy money, and sooner or later, I get picked up, spend 3-5 in the pen, get out and live it up until I’m back in again.” He had a gleam in his eye, a kind of cackling madness. He lived side-by-side with danger and didn’t give a shit about death. It made me smile.

But the man I was riding with from Atlanta, he was different. He wasn’t a jailbird. He was completely broken. His skin was flaky and dry. His arms were full of sores. His eyes, heavy with bags. He described the terrible conditions he experienced- the hard plank of a bed, sleepless nights, the meager portions of fake, processed meals, the lack of sunlight & cramped space, “And to think, I was only there for two weeks! I’m just grateful to be out. The one guard felt bad for me and started slipping me some of his food.”

He split with his wife about a year prior. She was full of spite and bent on making his life a living hell. She took all his money, all his possessions, and remarried very soon after their official divorce. As a kicker, and because she had high-power friends, he was thrown behind bars. After all that, he was left with a duffle bag that he clutched close to his body, as if it was the only thing protecting him and his heart from final ruin.

I wanted to lean over and give him a hug, but didn’t. I imagined how awkward it would be reaching over to him in our cramped little seats on the bus. Instead, we continued to talk. He was still wearing the spare clothes he was given in jail: a raggedy white t-shirt and grey sweatpants. His eyes were bloodshot. They looked perpetually on the verge of tears.

He told me his plans. He was going to stay with his daughter in Texas. “She and her husband need help fixing things around the house. Fences, doors, a shed out back. And now I can spend time with my granddaughter. I have the chance to watch her grow, to tell her stories, and even teach her grandfatherly things…” He paused, and looked off for a moment, “You know, it’s odd. I feel light. Like there’s a new beginning. I have nothing really except my family.”

I didn’t know what to say right away, so I just looked at him. I could see weight slowly lift from his weary body. He came out of his self-reflection and asked me about my life. I told him I was a writer. I shared some of my work with him, and read for a while before returning to conversation.

“How old are you?” he asked. “25.” “So young. A rambling poet just wandering the country. Talking to people along the way and writing stories. Folks like you still exist, huh… Where are you going?” “To Dallas for a full moon celebration.” “Go on…” I related more of my story, how I traveled from South America to Philly to Central America to Oakland to Colorado, Chicago…

“I don’t how it happened. I just tapped into something. Got lucky. Struck gold. Met great people. And kept on creating. I feel like it’s happening to a lot of us. I mean, everyone’s experiencing it differently, you know, the zeitgeist. The apocalypse. This grand transformation of life is occurring, whether we’re forced into it by outside circumstances or maybe we accept it willingly and engage it.”

He looked at me with one of those questioning looks people give me when I slip into ideas like that. Then a kind of half smile breached his lips. “Yeah, I get it. Consciousness is evolving whether we like it or not.”