October 2, 2005
It rained on and off throughout the day. During a morning lull, we went out looking for mushrooms and didn’t see a single fungus. Maybe we need a day of warm temps following the rains to get the spores popping. I checked a place where Lang and Martha found chanterelles last year—along a now overgrown logging spur off the DHH road. In the afternoon we braved the drizzle to do some fishing, and I got skunked. I fished from the creek up to the back eddy pockets and then back to our beach. Had one hit, and it might just have been a squawfish. Where are all the steelies? It was nice to be down there, watching the mists and the occasional patches of blue sky. Even standing in the rain. Gus didn’t seem to mind much. He was wet from the river anyway. On the path out, sitting on a log to switch from my felt-soled wading shoes (good on slippery rocks) into my hiking shoes, I saw a bunch of mushrooms, but they weren’t chanterelles. Soon, I think.
I’ve had the wood stove going all day, keeping the cabin warm and dry. I’ll miss the coziness of having a wood stove, the chore of chopping and carrying wood. At the Fort Montgomery house, it was my nightly routine in the winter to make a nice fire. That stove, a Vermont Castings I bought in the Adirondacks and hauled home in the trunk of my Honda Civic (nearly breaking the springs), had a window. I loved watching the flames and hot coals. Many a night I fell asleep by those fires. There’s no wood stove or fireplace at the new bungalow. If I ever buy a house again, it’ll have to have a wood stove.
I did some more packing today, another big box, this one full of books and summer clothes. I don’t think I’ll be needing shorts or short sleeves much if this weather keeps up. I kept out one pair or shorts and several tee shirts just in case.
I worked on a new poem today. The title is a bit of a pun, which soon becomes evident. I got the idea when I saw a call for manuscripts in P&W for a literary magazine doing a theme issue on “simple virtues.” I assembled a few other poems and story to send in, too. The lines should have staggered indentation. Each section has a different point of view.
Eggs in nests, breakable,
in need of constant heat
and turning; squirrels
and hawks, and at night
the black gaze of owls
Cats at feeders,
poised, slow as the sun
but quicker than light.
Plate glass windows,
clean, clear like the gaps
between trees. Hard, hard.
Beware of clearings
and the yards of boys.
Beware freely offered
seeds. Forage most
in autumn when the leaves
and you are one. Beware
a background of snow.
Do not linger at dusk.
Take a circuitous route
back to the nest
you’ve built high
above the ground.
At the top of a pine
the fledgling, awakened
by the marrow of its thin
bones, peered out
of the woven bowl.
It liked its home—
the smell of grass
and moss, the down
from its mother’s breast.
Fear lit its eyes,
but something just as old
told it how to use its wings.
They eat when they’re
hungry, and they’re always
hungry but never gluttonous.
to come by, and so at times
they love the rain too much.
Their very lives
are arranged, like feathers,
with form and moderation.
They are no more
red than a jay is blue.
Refraction: light, them, you.
Rich Norris, crossword editor at The L.A. Times
e-mailed to say he wants to publish another puzzle of mine, but I have to make the grid easier, since it’ll be a Monday puzzle. I fixed it up today and will send it when I get on WiFi again.
October 3, 2005
Bradley and his friend Bradford (I know, that sounds funny) are due to arrive this afternoon bearing a new sliding door for the cabin. I have a feeling it’s going to turn into a very big job, a mandatory course here at the Dutch Henry Institute of Technology. Needs to be done, though.
I’m making a batch of Gary’s Famous Barbequed Ribs and I’ve had the Cubans properly humidified for a few days. Should make for some good action at the upper house tonight.
New poem, a loose sonnet. I can’t seem to escape the Adam and Eve story, which figures prominently in the new book. So here’s another. By the way an arbor vitae (pronounced vigh-tee), is an evergreen with a strong smell.
She was seven and I was eight
and we were as old as need be
when we hid beneath that arbor
vitae in its sour pungency.
Needles, little serpents, bit
inside my collar. I could hear
hollering in the fenced darkness,
but couldn’t see to see, and there
were spider webs surrounding us,
sticky things to push through or fear
if fear was what we wanted. We
didn’t know. We held each other.
That was all. Where else could we go?
We didn’t know. We didn’t know.
October 4, 2005
The Two Brads arrived yesterday afternoon with the huge new door strapped to the top of the pickup. The plan is to begin work on installation today. While we were chatting on the deck, a nice rainbow formed right over the garden:
In the evening we had a good time at the upper house, eating a plate of the ribs I made and then some barbequed chicken. Bradley’s friend Bradford is a character. He grew up in Preston, Idaho, the same town where Napoleon Dynamite
is set and was filmed. In fact, he said that in the movie you can see his parents’ yard. He now lives outside of Phoenix. He kept us laughing with stories about drag racing, grilling, and Evel Kneival. The funniest episode of the night was when he told us a riddle that a radio show up in Washington broadcast a few years ago. The prize to the first person who called in with the right answer was something like $5,000. Riddle: “What’s the first thing you know?”
I’ll give the answer next time I come to town.
As Bradford drank beer at the table with his eyes closed, Bradley and I played four games of cribbage. I beat him three to one.
October 5, 2005
Yesterday commenced intense vocational training at the Dutch Henry Institute of Technology, when The Two Brads came rolling down the road with their box of tools. Soon my deck was strewn with the dismembered, disassembled, disabled parts of the old sliding door and various and sundry windows, T-111 siding, propane gas pipes and moldings. While I stood around “holding the rope” and collecting wrenched-out nails, the professors did all the work and in a few hours had the old door out and the new one loosely fitted in. The door wasn’t sitting quite plumb or square, and the afternoon had lapsed well into fishing time, so Bradley put some temporary tacks to hold the door in place, said, “We’ll finish her tomorrow,” and the three of us and Gus went fishing. We got skunked at the river. Bradley and I had strikes, but no takers. Very bad action, but our dinner and continuing banter made up for the lousy fishing. Steak, mashed taters, Walla Walla onions, string beans—all of it, of course, cooked in butter, the fat of the gods. It was a clear, cool night and the stars were thick. Bradley brought the cribbage count from 3-1 to 4-3, but I’m still leading. Around 11:00 I called it quits, thinking I’d come back and read another one of Laurie Lynn Drummond’s great cop stories, but when I went to light the propane lamp above my bed, I remembered we’d had to shut off the gas when we disconnected a lamp near the sliding door. So I made a fire in the wood stove and went to sleep. This morning, without gas, I boiled water for my coffee on top of the wood stove. Roughing it.
The other day Bradford asked me to write a poem for his wife, an apology for him having come out here and left her with all the chores. Here’s what I came up with:
Postcard Too Small for My Apology
For the cool prelude of my side of the bed;
for the paper not yet read still waiting
at the end of the drive with its creases
and bad news; for the bee hive humming
in the eaves and the too-heavy ladder;
for the dog’s empty water bowl,
his whining by the locked door, the tug
of his leash, the brown steaming piles;
for the rubbish and recyclables—blue bins
loaded with the waste of our consumption,
the dark and sour smile of black beans
at the bottom of one tin can; for no whiskers
like hyphens punctuating the bathroom sink,
no uric ellipses on the toilet seat, no moist
sock like a sad brassard on the arm
of your favorite chair; for no black hairs
stuck to the bar of soap, no farts, no dopey
jokes, no charred-army body count
in the glass ashtray; for no one with whom
to drink or commiserate or die those little
deaths; for your speechless disbelief when I say,
“I’m going fishing for five days, can you
watch the kids?”; for Eve made from Adam’s
rib, and the long, long history of grief;
for what happened in the Garden—for all
of this and more, I humbly beg your pardon.
I’m expecting the professors to come rolling down any minute now to begin my practical examination—the final steps in the installation of the new sliding door. Then, to my best guess, we’ll be doing more fishing.
Evening post: The door’s in and sliding like butter. My deck’s back to its original state of semi-disarray. I got skunked again fishing, but The Two Brads just came up at first dark and said they caught two. They’d gone down through the corral and upriver fishing downriver. I’d gone to my beach and fished upriver. I’ve been feeling pretty lousy (upset stomach) all day, so I didn’t wait for them and just headed back. More action at the upper house tonight.
October 6, 2005
Last night I spent more good time with The Two Brads in the coziness of the upper house beneath a blanket of stars. Sitting out on the deck, I saw two shooters, one of them an orange blaze with almost no tail to it. Bradley whipped up a batch of his famous boneless pork ribs, this time with a spicy chipotle marinade. His pan-friend potato cakes were sublime, as was the honeydew drizzled with lime juice we had for dessert. Despite all this kindness, after a 4-4 tie in the cribbage tournament, I beat him in the last game. I’m ahead 5-4.
Here we are:
I got a call yesterday from Loretta, Judy Montgomery’s friend in Bend, who had been so kind to me when I was there, baking me treats to bring back to the cabin and bringing rawhides for Gus. She called for my address because she wants to send me something, and while we were chatting she asked how Gus was doing and then told me her own dog died suddenly the other day. I can only imagine how sad it must be. Anyway, I wrote this poem for her and her husband Pete.
—for Loretta and Pete
Come, sit, stay awhile
before the end, old friends.
I’ll miss your smiles,
your bountiful hands,
the commands I never
listened to. Now I would
hang on your every
word, sit, stay, be good.
Life was a leash I loved,
and I knew it well.
It was heaven enough
as far as I could tell.
They say there are no
fences where I’m going,
and I’m afraid I won’t
know what I’m doing
there. Hard to comprehend
—all that space to run.
I promise, old friends,
if you call, I’ll come.
The whole canyon was full of thick fog this morning, the first time I’ve seen that. It was beautiful. Now, at eleven, it’s burned off to a sunny day. We’re going to move some wood into the woodshed and rototill some of the garden beds, and then go fishing. We need a third fish for our fish fry tonight.
October 7, 2005
I caught us the third fish we needed, a nice 14-inch steelhead! He fought like mad and after I got him onto shore he broke the hook in half. A feisty fish indeed. I landed him right at my beach on a rock I’ve dubbed “Gary’s Rock,” because I usually have success there. Here I am with it:
Just before I caught the fish I saw two otters in the river, my first glimpse of them out here! They looked right at me, snorted, shook water from their big whiskers as if to say hello, and then dunked down and were gone. Very cool!
Later, just before we quit, Bradley caught one, too. That one he’s bringing home to Margery. What a good son.
We had a great dinner of the steelhead, some sautéed veggies, and some fried taters, and then we made the huge mistake of playing Trivial Pursuit so as to let Bradford get involved in the evening gaming (he’s not a cribbage player). Well, the game went on past midnight and then I finally won it. Afterward Bradley vowed never to play Trivial Pursuit at Dutch Henry again. “Throw it in the fire!” he spat. I think I concur. Cribbage is the house game, and all you really need.
It was a beautiful morning today, cool and sunny. I woke late after a lousy night’s sleep, my stomach bothering me again. I think it’s anxiety about leaving next week. After breakfast we loaded Bradley’s truck with firewood for him to take home to Portland, then stacked the rest in the woodshed. Between them packing up to go, we got in one more game of cribbage, and I won, bringing the series to 5-3. It’s official: I’m the undefeated champion of DHH for 2005. Man, I’ll really miss playing cribbage with Bradley. Here we are:
Here’s Bradford out on the deck taking in a last look at the amazing view:
By the time they were heading out, some weather was moving in. May rain tonight:
And here’s Gus looking a little sad to see the guys go:
Around 1:15 I said goodbye to The Two Brads, feeling sad to see them go. I had a great time with them. Then Gus and I were back to our quiet canyon. In anticipation of leaving next week, I cleaned the inside of my car, washing out all the dust and dirt I could and then wiping her down with Armorall and cleaning the windows. With a damp road, I should have a nice ride into town tomorrow for my penultimate trip to Grants Pass.
I may have one last visitor, if I decide to leave on Sunday instead of Saturday. Bradley says Steve Edwards, a DHIT alum, is planning to come in on Saturday. I feel torn. On the one hand, I’d like to be alone when I say farewell to this place; on the other, it would be fun to spend a night with Steve and compare notes on our Dutch Henry experiences. I’ll see how I feel when the time comes. Now that I think of it, if I want to move my stuff from storage on the 22nd, I should leave Saturday to give myself 7 days to drive across the country.
I’ve got baked ziti (homegrown tomato sauce) in the oven, and it smells good.