Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Ritual, 2017

I've always had a soft spot for individuals with a wild side...

"On my feet again, I explored the abandoned silver mines in the canyon walls, found a few sticks of dynamite but no caps or fuses. Disappointing; but there was nothing in that area anyway that required blowing up. I climbed through the caves that led down to the foot of Mooney Falls, 200 feet high. What did I do? There was nothing that had to be done. I listened to the voices, the many voices, vague, distant but astonishingly human, of Havasu Creek. I heard the doors creak open, the doors creak shut, of the old forgotten cabins where no one with tangible substance or the property of reflecting light ever entered, ever returned. I went native and dreamed away days on the shore of the pool under the waterfall, wandered naked as Adam under the cottonwoods, inspecting my cactus gardens. The days became wild, strange, ambiguousa sinister element pervaded the flow of time. I lived narcotic hours in which like the Taoist Chuang-tse I worried about butterflies and who was dreaming what. There was a serpent, a red racer, living in the rocks of the spring where I filled my canteens; he was always there, slipping among the stones or pausing to mesmerize me with his suggestive tongue and cloudy haunted primeval eyes. Damn his eyes. We got to know each other rather too well I think. I agonized over the girls I had known and over those I hoped were yet to come. I slipped by degrees into lunacy, me and the moon, and lost to a certain extent the power to distinguish between what was and what was not myself: looking at my hand I would see a leaf trembling on a branch. A green leaf. I thought of Debussy, of Keats and Blake and Andrew Marvell. I remembered Tom o'Bedlam. And all those lost and never remembered. Who would return? To be lost again? I went for walks. I went for walks. I went for walks and on one of these, the last I took in Havasu, regained everything that seemed to be ebbing away."
                                                         -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's Called Taproot

Space to Breathe, 2017

Did you know there is a magazine out there without ads, created for makers, doers & dreamers, with sections titled head, hands, and heart?

Yes, it exists. It’s called Taproot.

I’m honored to have my writing in their latest issue, GROW, in the heart section, accompanied by a papercut illustration by the talented Jennifer Judd-McGee.

The people who pull this magazine together are the types who don’t have a problem dedicating their first two pages, as well as their last page, to a peaceful floral print, and this makes me happy.

We all need a little space to breathe.

Thanks for doing what you do, Taproot.

Issue 22 :: GROW

You can find more of my work in these earlier issues of Taproot:

Issue 6 :: WATER

Issue 3 :: RETREAT

Friday, June 2, 2017

Things I Don't Want to Forget

Meadow Trail, May 2017

The young man with glasses and neat short pants who sat next to me in the cafe window and slowly drank his espresso and small glass of water, without a sound, his phone resting untouched on the counter before him.

Seeing my mom's handwriting inside a small note card with a gold pineapple embossed on the front.

The taste of a warm foil-wrapped burrito eaten in a meadow after a hike.

The afternoon there was a fleeting soft space between my apartment and the sandwich shop, where bracing wind ceased, sun shone, and street sounds were muted.

The translucent green of the cresting wave I knew I couldn't capture with my phone.

The way I slice an apple.

The morning we sat at a picnic table and ate an entire loaf of Brickmaiden's Pain au gros Sel (salted potato) as an impromptu breakfast.

The day all of the old men I saw in North Beach had Grandpa John's eyes.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fiddleheads

Lunch, 2017

I've seen young furled ferns while hiking and I have always admired their beauty, but never had any idea if they were edible. I did know some people ate a fern called fiddlehead, so when I, always interested in experimenting with a new fruit or vegetable, saw them at the farmers market, I snatched them up immediately and took them home.

Once I got home, things became a bit more complicated. I tried to do some research online, but as is often the case, there were a variety of opinions, and I wasn't sure who to trust. For instance, it wasn't exactly clear how I should clean the fiddleheadswhich cleaning specifics I should classify as necessary and which I could write off as too precious. Each fern was heavily decorated with brown papery threads. I didn't know if the threads were only undesirable from a textural perspective, or inedible.

I also learned quickly that the fiddlehead eaten raw or undercooked could make a person sick. I saw the word toxins, I saw carcinogenic, and I saw clear instructions to thoroughly boil them to make them safe to eat. The amount of boiling varied. I started wondering if I should eat them at all, but that went away quickly. Maybe I've spent too much time with my daredevil father. I moved forward.

I cleaned them up, still unsure if they were quite right, and boiled them for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the boiling meant that they lost their bright color, the vibrant green you see in so many photos, but I'd decided that I wouldn't risk poisoning myself for aesthetic purposes.

While my penne boiled I made a new mess by trying to clean up my now boiled fiddleheads a bit more. Then I trimmed the bruised ends (I surely could have done that earlier, but...) and cut them into bite-size pieces (I thought some of the unfurled parts were too long. I'm one of those people that isn't fond of huge lettuce leaves in my salad, or giant pieces of broccoli I cannot fit into my mouth in my stir-fry.) The second cleaning and trimming was followed by a sauté in olive oil with garlic and capers. I tossed the fully prepared fiddleheads with al dente penne and squeezed fresh lemon juice on top.

It really was a delicious lunch, but I'm not sure fiddleheads are worth the worry and preparation time. Wouldn't I have been pleased with any vegetable prepared with olive oil, capers, garlic, and lemon? I think so. I know so.

Still, I might try preparing them again. As with most things in life, listening to advice, reading instructions, and watching what others do will only get you so far. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. Learning, and the comfort that follows, takes time.

My bowl is empty. At the moment I appear to be alive, and not feeling at all woozy. Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

She's Got a Way

Transition, 2017

Of course, I flip directly to the Linda Pastan poem, and smack-dab in the middle I find these lines:

I've started to dismantle my life already, throwing
out letters from people I remember loving, (14–15)

And they stick, like a bur to a sweater.

-Excerpt from Linda Pastan's poem, Plunder, in The Paris Review, No. 220.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Today Felt Like

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This afternoon, as I was leaving my apartment building, I saw a little boy, maybe four or five years old, with the viewfinder of a beat up digital camera held to his eye. He was alone at the base of our front stairs. I surprised him when I walked out the door. He stepped to the side, where I then saw his mother. She told me he liked my stairs. I told him to go right ahead and enjoy them, then I looked back at them myself. I’d never really paid much attention to them before. They are a combination of terracotta tiles and what appear to be hand-painted tiles showing every so often on each stair face. They’re a bit beat up, but still in fairly good shape for a building standing since the 1920s. It had been kind of a melancholy day up to this point, but this observant little boy changed my view. I know he helped me find this cloud. He might have also made the sun feel warmer, the air more brisk, and even had something to do with my climbing up and down this city's hills at a quicker clip than usual. Thanks, little guy, wherever you are. I hope when you are a man you are able to look back at those photos of our stairs and remember what today felt like.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

1/31/2017

January is running out.
It will never be replaced.

I am tasting my tea,
watching steam lift from its surface.

I can make another cup, just like this one,
but I cannot add another day to this month.