The Moon and I

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Sometimes I ask the moon for guidance.
I stand at the window, my breath fogging up the glass,
and I reach my hands up.
The moon is alive in the way of mountains and rivers,
through the long-lived presence of time,
and the humming of old things.
The clean blue moonlight pours through the city air, in a steady stream, as soft as water.
I feel it spill over my skin, through the too-pale crevasses on my palm, through the rivulets of my fingerprints, over the paper-cut on my index finger.
The moon and I are kindred,
nocturnal and unknowable.
I ask the moon what I should do,
what should I do, moon,
and she speaks to me the way a creek rolls across pebbles.
I cannot understand, but I feel something settle within me.
I feel that I am long-lived for a moment.
Wind, or a boulder,
or the bend in the river where the willows hang low.
I wash clean in the moonlight,
ancient, nocturnal, and unknowable,
but home.

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The Earth Itself

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After everyone has gone to bed, I sit on the sand. The lake pulls quietly inward, lapping against the velvet rocks. Above me, and above the purple lake, Ursa Major appears, star upon star, from the blue-lit ether. It pulls on me — the lake, and the deep-time silence that writhes in the wind, and in the mountains, and in the low, dark roots of the pine-mat manzanita. I feel the unfolding of blue, of sunsets sacrificed into the same tree-fringed hills for millennia. How this was once a glacier, high in the pristine paleolithic air, and now, kayaks and howling children linger on the bows of the lake. Behind me, the moon lines the trees with a white like salt. Mineral white. Desert white. I feel that I should draw in the sand. I should dance a slow, secret ritual, or kneel at the point where the moonlight hits the earth. Instead I turn back to Ursa Major, and I listen for the silence. It buzzes in my ears. The silence is its own music. It is the earth itself. It is the dance and the waters of time. I feel it pull up, and out, and around my chest, the thud of the night air, the unchanged lake, the windless millennia, the bright and ancient drumming of the earth. I have found something lost to me. I am whole again.

Slow Moon

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You stare through a telescope.
There, the craters,
and the old seas, like bruises.
You stare a bit longer.
You see the moon revolve,
inch by inch–
the slow moon tilting,
an avalanche off an edge
that is neither light
nor darkness.
A chill rises on your arms.
It’s not just the moon that’s moving.
It’s you, too,
face to face
and dancing the sunward spiral,
out, and out,
with purple dust in your wake.

The Rabbit Kingdom

 

Rabbit

Image courtesy of The Epoch Times

 

The aspen trees shimmered above us, silver as starlight, and the cottonwoods streamed, feral, across the grass sea. Something brown and close to the earth darted toward the stage. A rabbit. White cottontail. Soft brown fur, close-cut and smooth like moss. We crept closer. Two more rabbits surfaced from their bush kingdom. I tip-toed closer. I crouched. They took this as a threat and jumped silently into the brambles, to the dark, sunless underbelly of things. We continued on. I stopped to admire a carpet of wood sorrel, when another rabbit surfaced. Then two, then four. Around the bend and–three more, their noses twitching against the twilight grass, their leg muscles tense and stringy and poised to flee when we passed the threshold of their kingdom. Out of the trees and into the garden. Three more waited in the grass. And then they retreated to the blackberry bushes. They waited for our footsteps to wane, and at last they reclaimed their places in the setting sun.

From Emptiness to Emptiness

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I close my eyes and imagine the blanketed oceans, how they quaver beneath the starred sky. The sun hides coolly in the corner, overshadowed by the dull blink of the crushed moon, orbiting us like the rings of Saturn. Underwater, the sky burns red, and the world is, for a moment, still. Nothing is alive yet, except perhaps some bacteria. I wait. A meteor crashes into the ocean. Water shoots up around it, and then it’s swallowed into the emptiness. Another few billion years and the first, primitive animals will sputter into life. Brachiopods. Trilobites. Sea urchins. Will they love each other? Will they feel concern and worry and hatred? I can’t see their eyes, so I can’t know what’s inside them, but I like to think that I’d recognize something there; that, maybe, just maybe, I would see something in their eyes similar to my own, some glimmer of life to combat the emptiness of space, and the dark, young emptiness of the first ocean.

Cedar

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I had a dream about you, cedar tree. That you were gone. I ran to the empty space where you had once been, and I knelt in the rusted leaves. The sun fell over my hair, and over the fine, carved lines on my hands, and I ran my fingers through the blistered earth, as though through water, through black, bloody, seaweed. But you were not there. No stump. No place of mourning or rest. I stood and ran. The heaviness of the air followed me. One by one each tree vanished, until the forest was barren. All I wanted was to sit with my back against bark. To look up and see the lace of your leaves against the sky. But the trees were gone. The ferns lay severed and stepped on, and the salmonberry bushes wilted into pale, thorned dust. I couldn’t run anymore. The wind halted to absolute stillness. And then it was over, and I heard only my own small heart, flittering softly, like a dead leaf, trapped and wrapped carefully in my chest.

The Bent Air

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The untouchable bends, a bowl that spools the air, unwinds it, throws it up and towards us and catches the ravens’ talons in the bristles of it, the pinyon pine, the turkey vultures in a square, sailing together toward the dying sun, and the moon, up from the dense, bent echoes, the dark, still places in the in-between, in the distance, the calm, bent walls, the purple outlines that lengthen at dusk, that inhale the other colors, the very rays of the sun, the dotted cliff-sides, the sharp click of rocks chipping against one another. Clouds like plates, with flat bottoms, and wisps of rain caught up in the sky. Long streams of mist that never touch the ground.

Lake Powell

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I think I know why the desert seems alive; because it is. Because here you can see the earth itself, the shifting, deep-time rock, and you can see quite clearly that it’s as alive as any plant or animal. And you can see the place where the rain forms, the gray sea-like air as it churns on itself, around, around, dark enough to obscure a mountain. The water does not belong here. This would be canyons. It would be deep, smooth walls of red dirt.  Yet it is beautiful. Once a sea, water again. It joins the cliff-sides seamlessly. They reflect onto each other, the pinks and reds and pale-greens molded into one flat pool, like a painting, like spilled light, these colors that have not mixed in millions of years.

The Fern Tree

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You do not sleep, fern tree. You stand awake, with moonlight on your shoulders. Behind you, Venus descends, slows, and dissipates, like a stone into water, but you do not move. At dawn the steller’s jays sway on your branches. Their feet clasp, and together you and the birds rustle, touched by the shallow milk of rising dew. The robins awaken. Yes, all of them. They call to each other—up-down-chip-chip-chip, in the smallness of morning.

 
At your feet, the creek migrates north, then east to the Willamette River. A decade ago one of your branches fell into the water. It remains there, spongy, softening, mossy. The current forms a diamond around it, and tugs it gently onward.

 
So, too, do your leaves join the soil. They sharpen, and crunch, and feather into lacey ghosts. The soil asks for them; demands them as a blanket so the salmonberries and the waterleaf may grow. You do not mind it, fern tree. You are blessed; you are a god, a great bridge across the forest, multi-trunked, invincible, your branches draped by thin-papered ferns that crisp in summer and glow sorrel-green in winter.  You will not die, not entirely. You will spout new trunks and the ferns will flock to you.

 
Two spotted-towhees rest in the elderberry bush. A cloud of chickadees joins them, along with a lone kinglet whose wings tremble like a hummingbird’s. They visit the cedars and the hemlocks; the baby ash, and your brother maples; but they do not visit you, fern tree. The jays have claimed you.

 
Night returns. You are silver; a strand of the moon, a keeper of wayward sunlight. Your leaves remain warm. The wind sifts in slowly, as though from the ground. You cannot help yourself; you sing your own night song, a whisper that is blue and ancient, and you join the birds in their nestling.

Behind the Fog

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When I see fog, I think of sunlight. I think of the string of clear days at the beginning of each December where the sky blushes blue and cold. I think of a stream I once saw, tucked into a shore-pine forest by the ocean, how I wandered there at dawn in a sea of fog and huckleberries, how, as an owl sang curtly in the distance, I stopped to watch two swans glide like ghosts above the mirrored water, their necks bent, their eyes calm and speckled with dew. I think of a hill in town, the douglas firs who grow there, how the fog peels off their branches in the mornings, how it rises, how it lifts, how it leaves behind a rich, dark green that makes me homesick when I see it elsewhere.