Back in my 20’s I read a book or a manifesto or something about how you should walk every inch of the city within a five km radius of your house. Yesterday I learned to recognize that as wise, yet again, having forgotten it.
Slept over at Mike’s after a wonderful supper of the salmon of wisdom, the preserves of friendship and the taters of sustenance. A deep, roborative sleep. Then astonishment, as the whole city was fogged in and we were above it all in the Eyrie, watching it burn off. Then a brekkie of coffee, hash browns, bacon and eggs. We went a-walking in Byrne Creek Ravine park.
The day signs were most impressive; the Trickster appeared, facing the sun. Then three black dogs. The first two were on leashes; the third was free walking with her owner. Then a Korean family, joking in English and Korean. Then a troupe of dancers rehearsing Chinese opera on the tennis courts.
THEN a dry big-leaf maple leaf, in the shape of a death’s head, lodged against the ivy twining up a snag.
Then the old man. He came down, down down the steep incline to the water, and as soon as he saw us he BACKED UP THE TRAIL, never taking his eyes off us. When I saw him later I tried to acknowledge him, but he would not meet my eyes, although twice I caught him staring at me. Most unnerving.
Each leaf swayed and sang; there was a deeper stillness in the plashing of the water; I could feel my brain trying to calculate things, all the tiny incremental movements, as if they could be calculated. My vision cleared. It was a wonderful feeling.
As we paused, walking back, looking down at the ravine from the railing on the other side from Edmonds station, a young First Nations family walked by. The mother was saying to the toddler while the father pushed an infant in a stroller, “You can’t go climb down to the stream! You’ll scratch your bum on the blackberries!”
Safe back at the Eyrie I asked the spirits if they could help me find my family crest. I’m not knowing what to do about the answer.
At first it was all random stuff, a doodle in white letters against my closed eyes; it looked like Kufic script, and then script in no human language. I was sad, because I could not interpret the dancing, ever shifting letters.
They gave me the bones of a salmon, the curl of a fern, the head of a vulture, a toad, and strange, gap-toothed cogs, fitting into all these things. Ground and figure were constantly shifting, but it all felt fitting, and as I’m receiving these teachings, I’m thinking, yes, this is right, this is as it should be. The salmon and the fern are how the land and the sea connect, the head of the vulture is the acknowledgement of the cycle of birth and death, the toad is welcoming the stranger and the orphan, the cog is the knowledge that all things fit, the gaps the incompleteness that comes with being human. Then the last part.
It was the outline of a subdivision. I think I know what it means – that I’m a colonial born and bred and living on the land on sufferance, but damn it is NOT what I wanted to hear, and so it is probably the most valuable part of the teaching.
All these things were interwoven. As I looked at one thing, it turned into something else. Everything kept shifting; animal faces into letters, into stylized hands and fingers, curving railroad tracks with swaying ties. All rendered in brilliant white, as if the world’s most skilled tagger was drawing it on my sensorium at the speed of light.
At this point, on behalf of Cousin Gerald, I would like to interject, “Wot, no MOOSE?”
I remonstrated with the spirits, who laughed very heartily at my tears (I was weeping pretty much continuously at this point). A great woman’s voice said, “It’s nothing for you to parade around! You have no family crest! You couldn’t draw it even if you could understand it!” Then, after a pause, as if reconsidering, the same voice said, more quietly, “It will be there when you close your eyes,” and I’m back to myself and Mike’s handing me Kleenex.
It never ceases to amaze me, what’s in my head. None of this was real, but I assure you, it happened.
Today I’m going to go keep a promise, but this time I get to drive. Paul and I are going to Nanoose Bay for a restorative justice conference, or at least the part of it he is presenting at. I had meant to bail, but all things considered I have a few things to tidy up before I get back to writing. The characters are once again speaking, though. Theo came and sat with me while I was in the forest.
“I was not a philosophical person, and now I am. At first I was angry, because I did not need to think about what it all means. I was happy to move around in the space my people occupy, which is life and death and reproduction, and possibly looking at beautiful things. Then I was angry, because all my previous understanding was not wrong, just too small. I had thought myself as big as I needed to be. But since I got philosophy I can only think of myself in relation to others, and that makes me angriest of all, for I don’t like most Sixers and hate most humans, and now I am stuck with them all, and I really don’t have the temperament for a philosopher.”
Poor Theo. There’s nothing worse for a hard-core narcissist than waking up one morning and finding out you’re too small.
Meltingly grateful to Mike for his most restorative and sacred hospitality.
I’d also like to thank mOm for her bracing phone calls of late.
Tom U. is back working with Mike again, isn’t that wonderful? One half of the lunch bunch is back together.