All these ironies we never asked for

I’d forgotten it was the first day of summer, the last season just came and went. I hiked The Brothers for the first time in years, that time in late February we fishtailed up the snowy roads in my old Volvo praying we’d make it. First time back, and camped by myself at the head of the lake where a creek lets in, the beginnings of a log jam. Realizing the logs weren’t all stable enough to step on though, and doing an impromptu Irish jig trying to stay aloft.

The funny birds that gather here, gray and non-descript but for the fact they make this pumping motion where they bob up and down. They all move like that, to some beat. And they’re in the flowing rapids bathing and drinking and bobbing up and down like it’s some jamboree, and after a while there’s hundreds of them, fighting or fornicating or both, others just bobbing up and down until I have to join in too. And it’s a good thing I have some privacy at this camp, it’s been a long time, cooped up.

The strange gray insects that hover right above my tent, maybe 10 feet in the air suspended like there’s some force field around me. Growing in plumes as far as you can see in the sky but not once crossing the invisible border. In fact they lower down and flicker back when they get too close, like they’re moving to some beat too. They almost pulse like stars, like spirits caught between worlds unable to enter mine.

I’d go down every once in a while to check on my cans. I’d brought a few cans of beer and had them chilling in a nook along the shore, it didn’t look like they’d float away but it sure would suck if they did, so I made a habit of checking on them and one of the cans started to drift far enough it was hard for me to reach without getting wet and I slipped in the mud, reaching as far as I could and remembering The Hobbit, the character Gollum transformed by his own covetousness and the strange power of the ring. “Mine, all mine!” And all these ironies I never asked for but couldn’t ignore.

The moss-covered knobby burl on that tree, first learning about burls on our trip to Alaska: how the tree confines stress to one area and makes it bulge like that. Talking about burls with Dawn’s brother Chip the last time he was here, how burls are prized by wood workers for their unusual patterns. And how Chip turned bowls, reusing wood from fallen trees in his neighborhood, he made art out of it. Taking what was already there and making something new.

The night settled in and we filled the valley with our campfire smoke. It plumed out blue making the hillsides misty like we were somewhere far away in the bush, just me and Neil Young, his guitar and harp. The crackle of the campfire, a brown eagle swooping down. “Love is a rose but you’d better not pick it, you lose your love when you say the word mine.”

I dreamt I was leaving the restaurant but the jacket on my back wasn’t mine, it was too big, and then it turned into a wild cat, a cougar with its ears curled back about to bite, but it was connected to my back, its arms looping through mine. And then I woke to the sound of birds and pink morning sky, and knew it was time.

Categories: identity, prose, writing

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