Up Red Marble Quarry Road, Waitts Lake, Washington

IMG_5221I thought it was the shadow of a butterfly but it was just a leaf falling, they’ve started gathering on the ground. More days in the hammock with just the sound of wind chimes and jets, birds, kids: realizing I really have to get back to work now, I need somewhere to go. Dawn said she thought the fire went out under me and she’s right, but saying that started it up again. I go online but my attention fans out when it hits the surface and runs down the screen. The light is different now but the lawn’s still green, though scraggly and coarse in places like my beard. I made plans to meet my friend Brad on the Pacific Crest Trail; he’s doing about 200 miles of it, lots of the up and down portions you can lose yourself on, figuratively. He got the Audobon field guide out when we were at his cabin and read a description of the pileated woodpecker, its red crest and mustache, the fact those trees must be dead they’re on. Their tongues are like anteaters and they suck the carpenter ants out like juice. He has a bat house that never gets bats until this year — he pointed out the guano by the foundation and shone his phone at a slit near the bottom where one was sleeping, upside down. They come out like crazy at dusk with the bugs and do fly-bys between the bistro lights, move like hummingbirds in blindfolds. His dog Maggie is old and diabetic, can’t see, uses her sense of smell to navigate, chases Ginger in circles and vice versa until it turns dark and someone bites someone and then it’s all over, they split up and lick themselves, return to their corners, lie down. The crickets on Brad’s porch would freeze overnight that first September we came and in the morning I’d watch them thaw in the sunlight and come back to life section by section, stretching. Brad says the pine beetles survive by throwing their insides up so they don’t freeze over the winter, it’s just a shell left. I think we humans do the same.

Brad’s been cleaning out the redundancies in his kitchen, and found a couple ready-made salad dressing packets dated 1979 and 1981, held the two side-by-side to show how the logo, a cowboy silhouette leaning against the name “Hidden Valley Ranch,” changed from a cartoonish figure to one of more girth, all business, Carter to Reagan.

He has owls hanging inside the cabin, craft-owls with cartoon eyes like marbles perched over a lamp by the bed or relegated to the back, ganged together with eyes fixed open and haggard looking, strung out and dusty for 20, 30 years in the same spot, frozen in time. Old saws with rusty teeth, leather photo albums, clocks, kids’ art from the 80s. Ginger roots around the property, finds bones, all kinds of weird shit to eat. A brick-red shed with snowberry grown up around it, the ice house and tin roof, leaning structures that lost their windows, remnants of frayed tarp — flecks of moss and nail heads, empty lawn chairs.

The dogs yap at bugs, moths, gnats, snap like hungry hippos, the ice house now sagging into the ground on one side, needs dug out and jacked up to reset the foundation right. The bees with their tattered wings, tossed out of the hive. Brad, butchering crab on the Aleutian Islands in the 70s, lost his job for missing a shift and then missed the ferry out, only comes twice a year. Hitching a ride to an airstrip the next day for a military plane back. The death grip of a crab’s claw when it comes off after it’s been put through the saw and boiling water. None of the stories safe for kids. The trucks up and down the road by his lake going back and forth to the silica mines, no shoulders. The lake’s gentle lapping and calm breeze, no track of time, no phone or leash — writing poems about clouds, the ironic need for structure and the fight to deny it.

Categories: musings, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. a damn good morning read/ thanx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just fucking stop Bill! Too good. That paragraph that starts, “Brad’s been clearing out the redundancies in his kitchen” was a home run. Pictorial, so so real it’s surreal, great stuff. As always thanks for sharing. Good day friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good day is right Austin! Thank you for a good start to it. I’m taking my dog up the trail and the day off from the other wiring project, yay. Thinking if your advice about getting the words in, it’s good. Glad this landed with you. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Man, this one is super-packed with goodness. I hate to single out one detail over the others, since they’re all primo, but the way the Hidden Valley Ranch logo evolved is like a time capsule saying, “Look around — the signs are everywhere!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool Kevin, thanks. Glad you liked it, my image-burrito thing. That ranch logo thing is funny — Brad had some long overdue cleanup I think. Funny how that can happen at a shared family cabin where it’s unclear who brought what, et cetera. I’m glad you enjoyed it, thanks. Bill


  4. “move like hummingbirds in blindfolds”–fantastic! What a wonderful storyteller you are, Bill! I’d say your words are ideal kindling material. Go get ’em!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, ha! Great encouragement Ann, thank you for it. I’m happy we reconnected out here in the blogosphere, or LinkedIn, and thanks for reading my post and commenting here. I think it’s the first one I dropped on your doorstep so I’m glad you liked it. I had my dog out this morning for a few hours on the Cougar mountain trails, trying to get her to drop a few kilos after our time in Germany this past year, and those table-sausages she got from my mom. She’s looking good. Hope you and the little man and the other man are doing well, my friend! Have a great weekend, thanks for the kind words too. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The last time I helped my mom move (2008), I cleaned out her pantry and office because she couldn’t bring herself to do it. I was shocked at first at what I found that was ancient as hell… soup cans from the 90s, hand-written check registers from the 80s, but eventually it became a game of ‘find the oldest thing that should have been thrown out long ago but wasn’t.’ The winner was a packet of McCormick’s steak seasoning dated 1973. It had been in her possession since I was two years old, and she’d moved it from one house to the next three times. Must have been some damn fine steak seasoning, that.


    • My stepdad had some medicine like that he’d gotten in Africa from the 80s, some of it opiate-based (I guess one was a favorite of John Cale from Velvet Underground, no surprise: Dr. Collis Brown’s mixture). He gave me some of that when I was terribly sick from a hangover and some spiced cheese curds I had once, and it gave me aural hallucinations with a water feature they had in that house, where I thought I heard voices whispering and giggling each time a bubble popped. It was good stuff, but dated like 89 as the best by or something. Good on you for helping your mom, that’s good. The Rolling Stones just came on my Shuffle, that song toward the end of Sticky Fingers that’s about cocaine or opium or god knows what. The universe is with us now, or vice versa.


  6. The things that stay with us (memories and packets of spices) seem to be slightly out of our control. I was cleaning Tshirts out of my closet yesterday and had trouble getting rid of the shirts I’d won playing basketball. There’s a part of me that wants to hang on to that stuff even though I’ll never wear them again. It’s easier to forget my past than to throw things away…I don’t know what that says about me, but I’ll think about it. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking yesterday how grateful I am for people who say thanks for a post, so thanks for thanking me I guess! That was Northwest. Yes, I get that about throwing things away, it’s funny. I’ve gotten to the point with some T-shirts I still wear that really look ratty, with holes. And it does say something funny about us, something about not wanting to go away or be forgotten maybe, these little parts of ourselves only we know, that disappear when we decide it’s time.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Structure and fighting it. That’s the secret, right? Instinct meets skill. You need the skill before you can rely on the instinct. Many people want to skip the first part. You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Up Red Marble Quarry Road, Waitts Lake, Washington | Matthews' Blog

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: