Last week at the used book store I found myself in a wealth of books at the moment so I drifted to the used cd’s and records. There’s an art to browsing the music section. You don’t want to be the guy that lingers in one spot forever ’cause someone might notice the smell of three day old b.o. and tzatziki on your breath. But if you go too fast your just pretending to browse. As good faith would have it I found the only copy of Ziggy Stardust and knew I was going to claim it. I didn’t recognize any of the titles on the back, but knew that I’d heard just about every song on the album. It’s that kind of album. My son has known Bowie through his collaboration with Queen and has shown some interest in the guy so I passed it off as a kind of a gift. I used to think Bowie was some kind of dyke. ‘Cause that’s what I called lesbians back then, dykes. Being old enough to have heard the word and young enough to throw it around. I regret that, but also like that regret is locked somewhere between the conscious level of having dealt with it and just having beat myself up for it. There’s a difference. I’ve known fifth graders who wash their hands better than I do. We listened. That was the gift; we listened together. And I realized that as much as I try to teach the kid with words, with diatribes, this kind of action— was the real teacher, the real game changer. It was a gift to both of us. What’s the word for the moment between doing something spontaneous and becoming self conscious? I’m not exactly sure, but for now I’ll call it Bliss.
Lately I’ve noticed her noticing the ex- pressions on my face when I read to her at night. She watches my face almost as closely as the pictures on the page. She un-scrunches my scrunched-up fore- head and smiles at my smile. Is this trans- mission? I think so. This is how I know she’ll love reading too.
Where’s dad? My daughter says, standing halfway up the stairs in her snow- white pajama gown rubbing the crust from her good- morning time eyes. I don’t know, says my son who’s sitting on the couch, taking advantage of my absence with his head buried in his phone.
She whines a little and scurries down the stairs
run and jump on the couch.
I’ve been hiding on the ceiling, in fact I am the ceiling, and roof, draping over them, suppressing a chuckle.
As the silence lingers, I cascade down the walls and become the couch and floor too. Still, they don’t know and the calm
silence scatters like sand in an ocean of sand, and turns to fear.
I can’t help it, I know I should tell them, but they’re sitting on me, for god’s sake, they should know I’m here, they should know I’m here. They should know.
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.
As I walk outside I hear the plane engine roaring overhead as the plane engine fades I walk deeper outside and I hear the birds inviting me into their Paradise as I walk into their Paradise into the sunshine I see bees trying to figure out which flowers to pollinate but they can’t because they have already pollinated them all as I walk into the shade I hear six (or more) different types of birds chirping telling me not to leave but I have to because my dog has to poo.
It’s far too early to say just what kind of artist he’ll be, but he certainly has a drive and interest to express himself through art, and that is enough. These are my 11 y/o son’s poems. He has the same sense of humor as his old man. He really wanted these on the blog. I’m really happy, something moved him so to put it in words, in song.
As I walk this lonely trail I hear a bird sing a song not known to mankind But a song only I know as walk deeper into the forest But as i walk longer i realize that i don’t know but only nature knows
I’m looking at this mess beside my bed and I’m thinking: if I were to die today, in a heap on the bathroom floor, this is what I’ll leave behind. This will be my kids’ inheritance, they’ll have to clean up my mess, and their own. Serves them right for all the socks on the floor and dried cereal in bowls.
It’s an amazing trick i do; i clean up the signs of aging in my sink, in the bed, and all over the house. And yet somehow i still convince myself that i’m the same as i was ten years ago.