Being Human (A Travelogue) Part 1

We left for camp in the afternoon, just in time for the rain to come down. Upon arrival we were greeted by two jays cawing and showing off as we set up our tent. The rain mellowed for the time being, but it would return later in a fury. The campfire made it through the worst of it, somehow, and gave us just enough time to cook up a couple of hot dogs before having to spend the rest of the night hiding out in the tent.

On talking about the trip and what we’d hoped for, I said that I only expected the unexpected, and hoped for a little luck. It became a sort of mantra, as the rest of the trip had we not been with this idea we could’ve easily been disappointed and then mired in our miserable nature, lacking an open mind to keep us going to the next unfolding of events.

We had planned a hike early the next morning to climb to the top of Norse Peak, a peak on the Cascade Range, on the east side of Mt. Rainier. A difficult hike that does not see much traffic and is said to give views of the Cascade Volcanic Arc including, Mt. Hood, in Oregon, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and even sometimes, Mt. St. Helens on clear days. Our directions however, were not as clear and included a trip down a road that we couldn’t find. After about an hour of searching we decided to give up, unwilling to travel much further from camp. We settled on a spot we had seen on our Amazon fire screensaver, Tipsoo Lake near the crest of the Chinook Pass. We knew it to be a scenic stop but were unsure if there would be a trail or not. So after looking over the area we found a trail head post for the Naches Peak loop trail.

peering over Tipsoo
watching the stillness
travelers mill about

In front of us an older couple of ladies, friends, chatting about the last time they made this hike, behind us an Asian family, who perhaps, like us, weren’t sure what they were getting into, but were willing nonetheless. As we meandered up a rolling hill, which the couple ahead of us had already crested and disappeared, we found a spur, a thin trail with a bit of overgrowth (which always calls our name) so we detoured to try to get lost from the business of the main. We had all day so why not. After just a few hundred feet we arrived at a fork, straight ahead was a downed tree over the path, so we headed down the even thinner path, with even more overgrowth. Only after a few hundred yards the trail came to an abrupt end. Startled by the end and looking only down at my feet I was hit with a shock of disappointment. But in the same moment I looked up and realized the end of the trail was the beginning of an unfettered alpine meadow.

At our feet
butterflies in grass
sipping morning dew

A few steps in to get a better look at the hillside canvas and we noticed dozens of butterflies in the grass. After closer inspection there were probably more, and about four or five different varieties. Lavender butterfly, cream butterfly, orange and black speckled, yellow butterfly, and they were dancing their dance at our feet, they were riding the breeze two hundred feet in the air against the backdrop of noble firs.

where is this dream place
—butterfly valley

A streak of grass had been flattened, perhaps by lucky fellow explorers, to a crag of rocks just up the hillside, so we meandered our way to it, to take out the binoculars and have a snack, to enjoy the breeze and the cool morning calm.

in your eyes
tears
at the inexplicable

who better but us
to be invited into
butterfly meadow

alpine breeze through
noble firs, oh look
a mountain hemlock!

We found a piece of the brittle rock to have been crushed and just underneath ants moving their larvae to safety. We lingered and laughed. We thought to make our way to another outcropping a couple hundred feet further up the hill where we ran into a few piles of scat here and there, suddenly an awareness of our awkward humanness bubbled up and it occurred to me that perhaps that grass had been flattened by another kind of traveler and so we decided that we should leave the pristine place as untouched by humans as we found it and decided to go back the exact way we came. Lucky to have been invited, unsure how many have come before.

clumsy humanness
forbids me to go further,
good luck mountain ants

We walked away with smiles and excitement. The trail was much emptier and before we knew it we came up to HWY 410, with a nice little footbridge overpass. For a while now we have talked about backpacking through the Pacific Crest Trail together. And that all of this hiking and camping could, in fact, be preparation, if we stuck with it, and if conditions are right later on in life. Maybe when I’m retired (which I won’t be), and he needs a break from the family (kids, I tell you, where they get these things…) And so knowing that the PCT is in our backyard we have searched out hikes that connect us with it, which is another reason for planning the Norse Peak hike. So after crossing the bridge we saw the sign that we had least been expecting, but had been so hoping to see.

Encapsulated in a Moment

She took our picture for their facebook page. For a moment I thought about the outcome; I pictured the picture posted, I pictured scrolling through their facebook page and seeing the pictures of past customers, and realized that this picture, in this moment, might as well be any one of those already posted.

encapsulated in a moment
a life in pictures

Hidden Track

Of the two giant Douglas-firs that are on either side of the church I take my dog to on our evening walk, I have definitely become more a friend of one than the other, though both of their years are probably measured in centuries, one I walk by and have a chance to explore, while the other is usually just a silhouette in the fading evening light. The only way to measure their growth, as far as I can tell, is by judging the distance of a massive limb to the nearest star.

We’re here such a short time,
the cotton candy vendor yells,
enjoy it while you can!

Moondoggie

Walking the dog, down the same sidewalk we take every night, back home. Down the side street that forms a T with the main street that we walk along a grey Chrysler, windows tinted, rolls, slowly, up to the intersection about ten yards too far back and comes to a complete stop. The green Lexus is parked in the usual spot on the side of the street, about thirty yards in front of me. Somehow I catch a glimpse of headlights way down the street, passed the crest of the hill. The Chrysler creeps forward, next to the stop sign and stops again. Headlights and the faint sound of a blistering engine begin to crest the hill. The Chrysler creeps forward and angles for a left turn, nearly into the street. I see it all in my mind, yet I keep walking toward it. I see the T-bone, and the aftermath play out in a millisecond. My angle never changes no matter how slow or fast I walk, I’m always going to be right in the path -the rollover, slamming into the green Lexus, glass shattering… hopefully everyone has their seat belts on. Does it matter how fast the Chrysler pulls out? or is it like hitting a baseball? In the same instant that he begins to turn he stops short and the Jeep flies passed. No time to check if seat belts are fastened.

moondog…
the taste of canned green beans
in my nose

Tusk Fish

Actions serve to
support the reward—
tusk fish


We watched a documentary about ocean life and one feature was about the tusk fish. This guy goes around looking for this specific type of clam. He is the day laborer of the sea, he literally picks up pieces of sea junk and moves it out of the way, he bashes into coral and things to get to this little clam hiding underneath it all. He takes the clam back to his pad of coral and bashes it relentlessly against the side of coral. Over and over, slipping out of the grip of his mouth, flinging his neck to bash this clam, in this labor intensive effort. Finally after some time he gets it, and in no time he scoops it up and off he goes, presumably to find another and do it all over again.

What struck me was how perfect a metaphor this all was for my actions. How much energy does this guy use searching, finding, digging it out, and bashing it? I wonder if the whole process isn’t just supporting itself, perhaps had he evolved to eat some easier to get prey he would be a different species all-together. How much energy do I use to get to the reward of pleasure? To have the illusion of security, of changelessness? Am I just a recycling of energy, pursuing the same subtle reward, investing in thoughts and emotions and experiences to drive me forward and support my well-being? How easy will this house of cards crumble, when any one thing is out of balance.

So much time and effort is spent in this balancing. Moving from one area of thought and opinion to another, tidying up, arranging, making everything nice and neat so that I can be happy.

It seems everything has something waiting to eat it up. Everything supports something else. What is it really that my actions support? If this ego is a myth, and my actions are serving as support for it’s construction, what is waiting to swallow me whole, to sniff me out, uncover me, bring me out into the light of day, bash me against some undying surface, and eat me alive?

My actions
and the ends they support
are swallowing me whole


From the Cutting Room Floor

I’ve decided to enter some haiku,senryu, and haibun in an annual contest at the haiku society of america, or HSA. Here are some that didn’t make the cut.


Haiku


early June pond, 
not quite as heated
as a month ago

Afternoon
Sun breaks
Cottonwood snow

Wind rippling leaves;
Waterfall


Senryu


Morning little league 
Barn swallows
Steal second

took me 'til 
thirty-six to have a steady flow
of clean socks

I used to think 
This was cleaning...
I'm just hiding things. 

Languid...
A  whole Summer passes
On Sunday evening

Haibun


There’s an old Asian lady living out of her car, she parks on my street. Every time I pass her she’s not moving, but she is in the middle of doing something; getting something from a bag, making her bed, staring. I’m pretty convinced that she is a buddha, lost in such deep states of conservation that she’s actively preserving energy by moving so slowly, like a slug.

walking the dog
under half moon sky—
tracing chemtrails