Song for mid-summer fires

In the morning the street lamps are still on past 6 with their long, dinosaur necks and pink/peach, lit-up heads. I set my alarm for 3 AM but got up before it went off, sailed past Tacoma and Olympia around 4, and it never was so easy on the 5. Got to the ranger station an hour before they opened, went over the route, drew maps and notes, but never wound up needing them. Was always too tired or distracted to get them out, trying to make good time. And time was like a wild horse bucking me forward or back, I never could sit still.

Bear scat on the trail climbing up the Hoh river to the source, the glacier. Some of the scat still glistening for the first flies (the iridescent, pink/blue/green kind). And all these trees so big, you can’t fit them into your frame. Standing on the bridge looking down, the river’s reduced to a green braid: it’s the scale of nature you can’t relay in photos. Those who can are thieves who dangle stolen jewels.

And the trees are quiet but aware of me, some fallen or long ago dead, but with more life growing out. Others, acting as a nurse to protect the slow-growing ones. They’ve got roots anchored like ropes around the rock and one’s giving birth, it seems.

It’s the anti-intellectuals who make our world small, they press the life out of it. I never identified with intellectuals, but I like the anti-intellects even less: they try to force things to fit into their frame. And their view is always smaller, has no room for the world’s possibilities, no humility for our size, the scale of things. They think we’re bigger than we are; they should spend more time outdoors.

The photos of the trees don’t do them justice because they have a presence that runs from the flash. The same with paintings on the internet, it’s not the same as seeing them live, they’re living things — portraits made to resemble someone who really existed, and the artists are thieves and liars working in the name of truth.

On my rest day, I pulled into the town of Forks at noon, just passing through. Lost a good hour in the grocery store wandering the aisles, looking for something to help my chapped private parts. “I’m Not in Love,” on the radio. And I thought about the town Port Angeles further up the 101, where Raymond Carver lived: you can feel the Pacific Northwest sorrow in that place, it feels gutted, and how much did the writer take on the same feelings of his place? Can you separate the two?

I retrace my route south on the 101 to the Hoh river: Hoh means whitewater in their native language, and there’s some connection with the name “Hoh” and the symbol for water on the periodic elements chart I’ll never understand. And the same with the fact the highway is called “101,” like the name Hoh.

It’s not harvest time yet, but there’s a feeling of abundance to our lives where there’s more than we can consume, the trees are heavy with late summer fruit and it’s coming down, we can’t save it, we’re running out of time, and some will just have to go unused. You can’t preserve it all, it’s not worth saving.

Now the light is different, the tops of the tall trees coming down our road get the morning gold, and the gulls passing overhead pick up the same pink from the morning sun that’s red from all our sins and what we put into it, so pretty to look upon for such a short time.

Categories: prose, writing

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23 replies

  1. Hi Bill, that is some comeback piece. I would like to reblog it if I may. Really superb writing and the observations about anti-intellectuals and the bit about our sin making the sun red…man that is good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. You have a way with words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loved this one, bill. you grow more into the great outdoors by the day –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, it’s good to find that sweet spot between intellect and anti-intellect, unless they collide and annihilate themselves, like matter and anti-matter. And I like the bit about dinosaur necks too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s problems with arrogance on both sides of that and I waver between the two myself. Glad you liked the dinosaur neck; that’s the line that motivated me to write. Thank heavens for those little hooks that drop from the sky.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The space between the intellect and the experience is one worth striving for. Seems like the outdoors does that for you Bill, and we are the richer for your experience.

    And I want you to know I chuckled (internally) at “chapped private parts. “I’m Not in Love,”

    Liked by 1 person

    • “It’s just a phase in going through.” Gosh, 10cc on canned overhead radio in small town America. Couldn’t make that up, it’s “irreal.” Thanks Bruce, glad to be good for a chuckle. Something bright has to come out of that odd, personal pain.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like your graph about the anti-intellectuals. Just met one yesterday and had to really hold my tongue to avoid an alt-right vs alt-left throwdown.

    Maybe I should have just said, “Be quiet, big boys don’t cry.”


    • I’m sorry for your run in with the “anti.” Good job holding your tongue Kevin, couldn’t have been easy. I have a poem on this I’m about to cue up if I can finish this morning. Enjoy the day; it got down to 58 in our house last night and I’m taking a hot shower to celebrate!


  7. Like you, I don’t really identify with the intellectuals or the anti-intellectuals. But it might be fun to put one of each in a room and be a fly on the wall. Of course, the only thing they’d agree on would be giving me a swat, and even then they’d argue about who got to do it.

    I enjoyed the word pictures of that NW corner of Washington. I’ve been through there many a time for dive trips to Neah Bay and the words conjured memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Word pictures is a neat phrase, I never heard of. That corner of the NW has a distinct feel and I’m working on capturing it the best I can; there’s some stark beauty to it that I’ve come to really feel at home with. Good on you for diving in it. That’s one thing I’ll likely never do; it freaks me out, brings out my feelings of claustrophobia.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love how you weave observations of the country, the culture, your experiences and deviate down the side alley of anti-intellectualism … You just do it so seemlessy, I wonder how you connect the dots to make it all make sense. But you do, every time.
    My son was just telling me some hassle he’s getting at school from this kid we passed in the street. The kid keeps taking the Michael because my boy can string a coherent sentence together and is good at Maths. No genius, but good. No, my son isn’t an intellectual by any means, but belittling learning seems ingrained from an early age for some.
    Grand tour, Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Taking the Michael,” that’s a new phrase for me! But I’m sorry for the struggle with your son. That’s some envy, or something. That will all come out in the wash, as we say. You know, for your compliments on the writing here I have to admit taking time off has put my confidence back and I’m having to slowly rebuild it, and I’ve found it takes more work when you take time off. Where I could make a few transitions in my head prior, that gave me the confidence to do the rest – so glad that it paid off. I’ve been thinking more about the value of strong transitions, where you can build upon an idea, and maybe that’s what you’re observing here: so thank you! And hope it gets better for your son at school. He should be proud he’s good at Maths. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Sorry for slipping that Brit-ism in there. Taking the Mickey? Taking the p**s? 🙂 Thanks, he’s fine about it really. It irritates him, but we’ve talked it over and I think he’s okay with it.
        Sorry your confidence has been knocked. It’s no fun when that happens, though it’s also par for the course I guess when you want to achieve something good, when you want to continually stretch the obundaries of what you write. You’ll always wonder ‘is this working?’ when you take chances. I hope your confidence returns by and by and autumn’s coming – that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – and that’s sure to inspire. All the best

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, very good writing the way you describe everything it makes me feel like im there with you 🙂 Im new to blogging but if all your works like this i will be sure to check it out 🙂 such an inspiration

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Amy thank you and welcome to blogging, I guess! I’ve enjoyed it, especially for growing my writing practice over time. I wish you well with it and hope you return here, and enjoy your blogging journey as much as I have mine. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Will. That was a very nice post. enjoyed reading it. Was so well descriptive.
    Keep writing more!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Two words: Bag Balm.
    The sins we put into it. That’s nice, in an apocalyptic way.
    My last day of vacation, and I am monumentally forlorn. Not really, but that’s a pretty phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve been thinking about you and wondering if you were out somewhere. I am sorry for your monuments of forlornity. I hope it was good, and we’ll get to hear about it? Did you go camping, like trailer style or something? Good to hear from you.


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