Faint rain, imagined snow. Mid May and it’s still stew weather, heavy stouts. I have to run the heat in the morning driving in to work but refuse to wear a jacket and then turn off the heat so I can maintain my edge. In the conference room waiting to meet my client I can’t warm up, goosebumps on my arms…doing push ups in the morning after coffee, trying the cold shower wakeup thing to feel alive, resilient. This morning it hurt so bad though, the cold burned and made my scalp seize up and go numb and I thought about the book 1984, how the senses deaden over time and discomfort starts to feel normal. How we crave comfort despite, even from the ones who torture us. Rounding the turn on our road, my morning walk, a quick one to the lake to see what’s there. Yesterday a blue heron coming in to land, didn’t see me at first…then did and thought better of it, and tried a tree branch it was too big for and couldn’t find purchase, kept slipping, so I left it to its favorite spot where I first saw it fishing in perfect heron profile, a Native American print.
Rounding the turn and thinking about identity, why I walk, what I’m looking for, where I go in my head. How it’s cleansing, when I worked down in SODO for Starbucks for so many years I tried to walk every day even when it rained just to get a little light, to imagine a life for myself beyond work. The day I had to actually get in the car and drive though, when things got really bad and I called my friend Steve from under the West Seattle bridge and explained what was going on, and he said he’d meet me that night, and how comforting to have a friend like that who could give good advice, who cared.
Steve worked at Starbucks too and left before I did, he’s older: we bonded climbing Mount Rainier in ’99 with a group from Starbucks, and we tried it again a couple years later and thought it would be easier somehow the second time but it wasn’t, it was awful: there was just us and a few others and our guide made the mistake of over-confidence, which I have a hundred million times…and we followed sun cups up the mountain we thought were boot track and got way off-route in the late night/early morning start, and had to turn back and the winds were really bad, and we hadn’t staked our tents down right at camp so they were bouncing and flapping and when our guide’s wife ran up to theirs to secure it she gashed the side with her crampons and it looked like a collapsed lung…and Steve and I, a good four hundred pounds of man-weight in my three-season tent, we bounced in it all night giggling and levitating from the winds like a bouncy house…and in the morning I almost fell off a rock face from the altitude after sharing a canned beer with our guide, dizzy and overwhelmed, slipping on the loose volcanic scree.
But it was that trip coming down I resolved to ask Dawn to marry me, and understood for the first time the real difference between what they call a three-season and four-season tent. And whenever I take that poor tent out now and regard the twisted, bent poles, it’s a reminder of my ignorance and hubris—but it still works, despite.
And how Steve tried to get me a gig with his work when I left Starbucks and started out contracting, and we got into a negotiation at his office where he asked my hourly bill rate and forced me to give him a number so I did, and it was triple digits, and he about fell over and said he could hardly afford half of that but I stuck to it, and later we went out hiking up Cougar Mountain, and forgot all about it.
It seems the rain’s been gurgling the same from the gutter since October now. In the mornings at the lake there’s a tribe of fishermen who gather, many of them Asian and smiling, with portable radios and buckets or carry-on luggage they use to wheel their gear and bait, some of them smoking cigarettes…and me in my own world, how I must look to them, what they must think, if they even notice…how we flicker in and out between the past and future, lost in ourselves. What it must be like to really be in the present when there’s so much less of it than the past, or future. In the book I’m reading, the author writes:
Confronted by the uncouth specter of old age, disease, and death, we are thrown back upon the present, on this moment, here, right now, for that is all there is. And surely this is the paradise of children, that they are at rest in the present, like frogs or rabbits.
— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, 1978.