Thursday, July 28, 2005

July 23 -28

July 23, 2005

After a night in town cooling off in a hotel with AC and a pool, I’m back at the cabin, where it’s warm and the mosquitoes are feasting on my legs and feet. On the drive back from Grants Pass, about two miles from the Dutch Henry road, I saw a fire burning and got a bit worried. It seemed awfully close to the homestead. While unloading my groceries I saw a helicopter fly down the river canyon, a big balloon hung below it. I called the fire dispatcher in Grants Pass and she said that there was a fire burning but that they had it under control. Just in case, I gave her my latitude/longitude coordinates and the radio phone number. Then I called Dave Reed, a retired BLM officer and long-time friend of the Brothers and Margery. He said he hadn’t heard about the fire but that he’d look into it. He called back later to say the fire was down near Marial Lodge, on both sides of the river. Marial Lodge is about five miles west of here. The firefighters have been dumping water on the fire since yesterday. All afternoon and evening (I can hear one right now) planes have been flying over, too. I plan to leave the phone on all night just in case the fire spreads and I need to be evacuated. Pretty scary, especially with the forest as dry as it is.

While in town on the WiFi, I started researching my relocation back East, scanning Craig’s List for apartments and looking into a flight in September, and the whole thing threw me into a deep funk. The prospect of apartment life feels a bit like awaiting sentencing at Sing-Sing. It occurred to me I probably won’t even be able to grill! At my house in Fo’Mo’, I grilled year-round, even in two feet of snow. And neighbors. I’ll have neighbors. Probably right on the other side of my bedroom wall. So, of course, I started second-guessing this decision to live close to school. Maybe another house up in Orange county is the answer. I don’t know. In any case, I can’t buy a house in three days, so I’ll be living in an apartment to start. Maybe I’ll spend the winter in an apartment and start house hunting in the spring. The thought of that life makes me appreciate this place a bit more.

My puzzle came out in yesterday’s USA Today! That was fun. I gave a copy to Angela at the coffee shop, and one to a guy named Rick I chat with sometimes at Dutch Brothers. I’m mailing one off to Neil Curry, too. Sharen, visiting her folks at the Ohio lake house, was text messaging me for help on it. She said she saw a woman at the airport reading the paper, and there was my puzzle staring her in the face. It’s neat to think that people all over the world were doing my crossword—a far bigger audience (and better pay) than any poem of mine will ever receive.

Judy Montgomery, whose chapbook I published in 1999, called me yesterday to work out details for my mid-August reading in Bend. Gus and I will be staying with Judy and her husband Phil for two nights. She’s got a fenced yard, where Gus can run around. I’m excited to finally meet her. She’s one of the nicest people I know in the poetry world. Bend is supposed to be a fun town, too. I’m looking forward to reading some poems from my book and some of the new stuff I’ve written out here. It’ll be the first time anyone’s heard the latter.

I’ve been running the sprinklers all day out in the garden, trying to keep everything green and growing. Despite the ever-encroaching weeds, the garden is looking great. Nice-sized squash and zucchini are ready to pick. I’ve got a few small eggplants. I harvested my first tomato today. My various salad greens are all thriving. And the strawberry patch is still producing berries. I’m going to pick my first bulb of garlic tomorrow.

I received e-mail replies from John Daniel and Emma Brown (next year’s resident). John says he’s going to come out when Emma visits the weekend of August 19th. That should be a fun time, what with the Brothers being there, too. Lots of personalities. Emma wrote asking about the solitude and loneliness. Reading my blog, it occurred to her that she, too, will be out here for six months essentially all alone. I’m going to give her all the tips I can on everything from gardening to making fires to coping with the loneliness. She recommended I read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and there’s a copy at the cabin. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read and just haven’t gotten around to. Anyway, I hope it’s as good as she says. I look forward to meeting Emma later in August.

July 24, 2005

I finished Blood Meridian and highly recommend it to anyone who can stand the violence. It’s a superb read, McCarthy at his best. I’m just about finished reading Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, a copy of which Lang left here twelve years ago. It has indeed helped bring me out of my funk, especially with regard to my writing out here, my solitude, my desire for companionship, my future. Rilke was so full of wisdom, especially for a man of 27. I think this is one I’ll keep coming back to during my remaining months here.

Aside from reading, the only productive thing I did here today was to create two more crosswords. I’m completely hooked. Lately I’ve been beefing up my database of clues and words, which makes the construction of puzzles a whole lot easier. I’ve come closer to figuring out the full potential of Crossword Compiler, the handy program I purchased to assist me in making puzzles.

The weather is much improved. In the 50’s this morning when I got up at 6:00. I made a small fire in the woodstove even. The highest I saw the mercury today was 92. By dinner it was 76. Much more to my liking.

The ticks seem to have disappeared. Haven’t seen one on Gus or on me for a few weeks now. The bane now is the burrs, which are worse than ever with the grasses having all dried up. Every time Gus goes outside, he picks up a new assortment of them. His “soft-coated” hair doesn’t stand a chance! And he so dislikes me brushing them out. Sorry, pal.

The daisies are gone, along with all the other wildflowers, except for a few Brodiaea in shady spots. The hot days have turned everything brown. One upside to this is that I won’t need to mow nearly as often. But I’d rather look at flowers. They were so abundant and varied in the spring.

I’m looking forward to chanterelle mushrooms in the fall!

July 27, 2005
I haven’t written in the blog for a couple of days because the heat’s been so bad I hate to turn on the laptop. It only adds more heat to my lap! The helicopters have continued to battle the fire downriver and today, while hanging out at my beach, I smelled smoke and looked up to see the whole river canyon filled with smoke. I got a bit worried, packed up my stuff, and made the steep and hot walk back up to the cabin, only to find that the smoke was up there, too. I put a call in to Bradley, who’d said he’d try to monitor the fire on the Internet, but he said he hadn’t found much. He assured me it was probably just a wind-shift and that if there was trouble the fire dispatcher, with whom I left my number, would call. I’m not so sure about all that. In any case, I’m going into town tomorrow to get Gus some shots at the vet and to buy plane tickets for my trip back East in September. I need to arrange to board Gus, too. I’m looking forward to the hotel pool and the air conditioner, too. After the couple days of pleasant weather, it’s turned hellish again. The mercury in the big thermometer outside my kitchen window read 108 today!

I’ve been reading a lot—the only activity I can sustain for any length of time. I read Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love in about two days. It was a real page-turner. I’m sending it to my mom. Now I’m reading Midwives.

Can’t wait for the fall and the cooler weather. I know, I’m sounding like a broken record. But what else is there to talk about?

July 28, 2005

I just listened to the news and picked up some info on the fire. It’s about 200 acres in size and not yet contained. There’s very little smoke in the canyon this morning, because the wind has died down. While I’m in town today I hope to make some calls and get an evacuation plan in place, just in case.

Friday, July 22, 2005

July 16 - 22

July 16, 2005

Bradley arrived late yesterday afternoon looking tan and healthy, but tired from the traffic on I-5. He said it was a nightmare getting out of Portland. His stress seemed to fade quickly, though, as he took in the sights and sounds of old Dutch Henry Homestead, a place he’s known his whole life. I showed him around the garden, where he was surprised that the apple trees were bearing very little fruit compared to previous years. Maybe the dry winter?

We had a nice dinner at the upper house—chicken kabobs I’d been marinating all day, along with a shepherd’s salad I made with fresh cucumber from the garden and corn and tomatoes and red onion. Bradley brought with him a bunch of shad he caught and had canned. Mixed up like tuna salad, it makes a great appetizer dip. We ate lots of that, too. Then it was cribbage and Cubanos. When Gus and I left around midnight, Bradley was up 2 to 1 and gloating a bit.

He put me to work this morning, the two of us splitting a big pile of logs by the upper house, with more in store for tomorrow. I like chopping wood, working wedge and axe and maul. It’s meditative and satisfying. But I was feeling it in my back and shoulders. Recently I tweaked that little muscle between the shoulder blades. Did it wheeling a too-heavy wheelbarrow. And every now and then it sings, off-key.

Bradley dug up a hammock for me and set it up on my deck, so I can recline and swing out there in the breeze and survive these hot days of summer. Here he is trying it out:

After a break for lunch, we packed up some knapsacks and Bradley grabbed his fly rod, and we made a bushwhack along a trail Lang cleared last year down to one of the creeks. Bradley was hoping some Chinook salmon might be milling about in the mouth of the creek where it dumps into the Rogue. Most of the trail was a good, easy walk along a gentle slope. But the poison oak was very bad. Gus got covered with it, and I fear that we did, too. We were almost to the creek when we encountered a huge fallen fir blocking the trail. Every other fallen tree had been cleared last year by Bradley’s friend and his giant chainsaw. This was a new fall. We couldn’t figure out how to get Gus over it. There was no going down and around the tree, because it was a steep slope there. And to go up and around meant a bushwhack through lots more poison oak. Finally, I just heaved Gus over the giant trunk of the fir. It was either that or turn back. He landed on all four feet and was fine. Then we were at the creek. Sure enough, we could see a big salmon in the shadows near the rocks at the mouth. Bradley let loose with the fly rod, making some expert casts (against a strong wind). I was most impressed.

The orange fly zipped through the mouth again and again, but the salmon didn’t go for it, and we didn’t see it again. Meanwhile, I took Gus down to the creek and got him to swim a bit in the hope of washing off some of the poison oak oils. I rinsed my own hands, too.

It was about 100 degrees by the time we set off up the river trail toward the swimming hole. There we set up my stashed umbrella and chair and went for a dip. Bradley didn’t bring trunks, so he swam bare-ass, scaring all the rafters, who must have thought he was some wild man raised by the bears. And in a way he is.

For dinner it was more of the shad and one of Bradley’s regular dishes: delicious marinated pork ribs done up on the grill, along with spuds and onions and cheese. And this time he made cabbage with bacon. Dessert was some Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia which I’d driven back from Grants Pass on ice. Very good action indeed. Back at the cribbage, I gave him a drubbing, winning four games straight and bringing this series to 5 games to 2. “I know you’re going to brag about this on the blog,” he said. Now I have.

July 17, 2005

More chopping this morning. When all was said and done, we’d split about a cord and half, maybe two, some of the rounds tough with knots. Good, hard work. Then it started to get real hot. Bradley said he wanted to shove off around 1:00 or 1:30, so I invited him to have lunch before he left. I made shad melts (like a tuna melt, but with a can of Bradley’s shad). I bought five cans for my own consumption. By the time he left, the temperature was 106! Here’s a picture to prove it:

Needless to say, I’ve had several cold showers and even swam in the pond, where out in the middle it was nice and cool. Gus enjoyed that, too. I’m hoping it cools down tonight. This afternoon I woke from a nap with a sheen of sweat on my forehead. Can’t stand that. If it’s too hot tonight, I may even sleep at the upper house, where it seems to have better cross-ventilation. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m not at all looking forward to these 100+-degree days. There’s very little humidity, but hot is hot no matter how you slice it. And it doesn’t agree with me, Portuguese blood and all.

Bradley and I were discussing my prospects for the fall—how to get the full extent of my stay here (when the fishing will be at its best) and find an apartment in New Jersey. His feeling is that I should take a Jet Blue flight to New York in early or mid-September, leaving Gus in a kennel for a few days in Grants Pass. I could find an apartment, then come back and stay till around October 20th. Then take a week to drive back and have a few days to move my stuff in the apartment. I could prepare for school while I’m still here, putting lessons together for the first few weeks of my return. I think it sounds like a good plan, though I hate the thought of leaving Gus in a kennel. But I’m sure he’d be fine. Hell, he might even like being around all the dogs and people. The place where I got him groomed is also a kennel, and the folks there seem nice. If I don’t do this plan, I’m looking at leaving here much earlier and then having to stay in hotels with my car loaded up with stuff and with Gus while I search for an apartment. I think if I line an apartment up in advance, I’ll have greater peace of mind when I leave here. More on this later.

Man, it’s hot.

July 18, 2005

As feared, it was a hot night. When I checked the mercury at about ten o’clock it was still in the high eighties, and warmer inside the cabin. The bedroom was a little cooler, but too hot for my comfort. At midnight, by kerosene lamplight, I had my sixth cool shower of the day. With my skin still chilled from the shower, I finally drifted off with just a sheet over me. I just got up, 7:00 AM, and it’s already 65. I fear it’s going to be another day like yesterday, maybe worse. I plan to take Gus down to the river, despite the hot hike we’ll have to make back up. Our beach seems the only solution to the heat.

The poison oak showed up on my right wrist, a bubbly line of it—snuck under my sleeve, I guess.

This afternoon we spent five hours down at the river. I planted my chair and umbrella right by the shore so I could dip my feet. I read a bunch of chapters in Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy’s gory but great novel. I almost dropped from heatstroke on the walk back up. The mercury, when I finally made it back, read 105. And it was probably hotter than that in the cabin. I spent the evening out in the hammock hoping for a breeze, and I just watched a DVD, Novocaine, a Steve Martin movie Jim sent me. But my laptop feels as if it’s overheating, like me. I don’t know how much more of this heat I can take. It’s making me a bit crazy and grumpy.

July 19, 2005

Hell in paradise: another hot day. I remember back in April and May cursing the cold and rain and wishing for hot summer. Now I’d sell my soul for one of those rainy, misty, cool days. We humans are chronic malcontents. The morning was bearable, and I hung around till about noon starting work on a new poem, watering the garden, and creating a new crossword. By lunchtime it was almost 100 again, and so we packed up and went back down to our beach. More chapters in Blood Meridian, more swimming in the cool, green river. After a couple of hours there Gus suddenly went bounding up the path barking up a storm. I could hear him beyond the river trail, up on the slope yammering away. I knew right away he’d gone chasing after Mr. Bear. So I slipped on my old sandals and shirt and hiked on up to investigate. There he was, about ten feet from a huge bear, barking as if he was a match for 300 pounds of muscle and fat and 6-inch claws. Mr. Bear seemed entirely unperturbed, swinging his monstrous head back to whatever it was he was grubbing for. I called and called and then made as if I was hiking back home, and then Gussie came. But all our stuff was still at the beach, so I turned around and headed back down the beach trail. Of course, Gus went back to the bear. I walked back to my umbrella, calling him the whole time. And before I had my shirt off here came my boy, covered with a whole new assortment of burrs, splashing into the river. I can say one thing: he’s a fearless terrier. We cooled off once more and then packed up and sweated up the steep hill homeward. Back at the cabin, I was hungry, but it was too hot to get motivated to fire up the grill for my marinating chicken breasts. So I had a salad instead, along with some of the leftovers from the meal Bradley made. Then I got Gussie up on the grooming table for some serious de-burring. He wasn’t a happy camper. The heat has me going to bed earlier and earlier. There seems to be no point in staying up. There are too many mosquitoes to sit out on the deck and look at stars, and it’s too hot to sit in the den. So here I am, in bed, where I’ll read till I drift off into dreams of air conditioning and rain, snow and ice and clouds.

July 20, 2005

I was having my coffee this morning when I heard a big whump against the window in the den. Another crashed bird. Sadly, this one didn’t fare as well as the tanager. This time it was a woodpecker. One of its eyes was open, and I thought it might still be alive. I brought it up to the deck in the hope that it would come around, but it wasn’t to be. The crooked flight of destiny is held aloft by feathers none of us can know and few of us reckon fair or necessary. And the hour of the woodpecker had come round darkly in the brightness of this July day.

I gave the bird back to the woods from whence it came.

You’d think my day couldn’t have gotten worse, but it did as soon as I decided to make Bradley happy and spray Roundup on all the poison oak on Lang’s creek trail. A three-gallon sprayer, full, gets heavy after about a minute. The trail is nearly two miles long, some of it along narrow and rocky paths. My arms were aching after a quarter mile, but I persisted, spraying ever shiny leaf of poison oak within reach. I’d dressed for the occasion: long pants, long-sleeved shirt, bandana around the face, sunglasses, hat. And the terrible mistake of Bean boots, perhaps the worst shoe I’ve ever owned. Some dumb designer up in Maine fashioned those boots so that a seem rubs against your Achilles tendon. The soles are flimsy, the toes offering no protection. My feet were aching. Walking thus clad through the veritable jungle of that nasty stuff, plants which serve no purpose but to make us bubble and itch, I knew I’d be carrying some of it home with me. I made it all the way to the turn-off to the creek, and used up every last drop in the tank. On the walk back, about a quarter-mile from the cabin, I took a wrong turn and found myself scrabbling up and down the steep, mossy slope and cursing aloud. I was all dogged out by the time I got back and washed out the sprayer and turned my tainted clothes inside out. That one was worth a Master of Arts degree from the Dutch Henry Institute of Technology. Maybe Bradley will read this, feel grateful for my having endeavored to accept such a mission, and bring me a nice piece of fish next time he comes in. The good thing to come of this mission: in about three days that trail will be free of poison oak, making for a much nicer walk to the creek to look in on those Chinook.

Hot again: 104. After the spraying job, I didn’t have the juice in me to make the walk down to the river, so Gussie and I went for a swim in the pond, where I don’t quite like to stick my head under. Too many newts and protozoa. It felt good, though. Afterward, I had cold bath, then a hot shower and a shave.

When will it rain?

Jim called around 9:00 PM sounding much better. His hiccups were under control, thanks to a new medication. He sounded upbeat, but said he’s very weak. I think of him often out here. He’s been such a good friend over the years. It hurts to think of him so ravaged by cancer. Jim said he has the Grants Pass weather on his computer desktop, and he gave me a promising forecast. Rain, believe it or not, is supposed to fall in GP in the next day or so. I’m 50 miles from there, and the weather here is often different from there, but I can hope. He said it’s supposed to cool down over the weekend.

July 21, 2005

I’m sitting in the brown recliner watching the madrone leaves tumble down out of the big tree leaning over my car. The yellow leaves have carpeted the woods and road. I woke this morning to a few of clouds through the skylight, and I thought Jim’s forecast had come through for me. But the sky above Rattlesnake Ridge was as clear as it’s been for weeks. It’s cooler today, though, even comfortable. If only the day would stay in the mid-70s. I’m headed out to trim the tall grass in the road, a fire hazard, while it’s nice out.

For the second time in as many days Gussie ran down a black bear. This time we were at the pond, where we stopped after mowing the high grass along the whole length of the Dutch Henry road. Gus was in the water and I was getting ready to throw him a stick when I heard a loud snort. I peered into the woods behind me and then heard it again, and it was coming from above me. There, about twenty feet up in a fir tree was a young bear, maybe 200 pounds, and none too happy about our being there. I hoped that Gus wouldn’t notice, and I tried to get him to come to the car, but he heard the snorfling and went to investigate. Now the bear started climbing down and Gus spotted him and began his yelping. Again I tried to get him to come to the car. Nope. Gus was trying to ascend the tree as the bear was trying to descend it and in mere seconds they would meet. I got a bit frantic, started the car and drove a few feet, tooted the horn, called. Then the bear leapt to the ground. I thought Gus was done for, but the bear turned tail and ran, Gus in close pursuit. The last I saw the bear rounded the curve and Gus was running through the woods as if to head him off! I turned the car around and followed. I tooted and called. And then I saw a wheaten blur growing larger on the road and taking shape as my pal, burr-covered and panting. I opened the passenger door and he jumped in looking victorious, proud, and not a bit as terrified as I must have looked to him. “Good boy,” I said, because he’d come. “Good boy.”

Despite some clouds and a tiny sprinkling of rain, it’s been another uncomfortably hot day. I spent the afternoon napping, having a cool bath, and swinging in the hammock, where I wrote this poem:

One Day in July

All that I am
wrapped in a hammock’s sway

and time sounded
in the small turnings of sprinklers

and fat flies.
Green gone brown. Road dust

asleep for the least
wind or any cloud’s offering.

As easily as I lie here
I could die here for all that moves me,

grow fat as an apple
and fall in some patch of shade,

forgotten by all
I’ve forgotten and sweet as the legs of bees.

Out of this moment,
if ever I recall it, will rock the soft

pendulum of the human
I was, as naked and doomed and malcontent

as Adam still ribbed,
and mythic only to me. Who else

will remember
the bear I saw a few hours before—

standing in a fir
like a logger, its breath like an engine—

or know another seven days
of silence and a single droning plane?

And if the same
could be said for every man alone

seeing the strange
and ordinary and storing them like seeds

for the tender shoots
of memory, passing time with little else

to grieve,
then it’s no wonder God created Eve.

As if the episode at the pond wasn’t enough, after dinner tonight Gus chased down another bear. This one I didn’t see, though I heard it crashing through the forest. I tried my usual methods to get Gus to come back, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I even drove my car down to the turn-around and tooted the horn. When he got tired of barking, he came back to the cabin. I just hope one doesn’t take a swipe at him.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

July 9th -14th

July 9, 2005

It’s my niece Lucy’s birthday today! Happy seventh, Lulu! I made another trip into town today with a list of things I needed to do and get. Then I went to the diner and saw Angela, and asked her to meet me at a cafe later in the afternoon—the first time I’ve asked out a girl in about thirteen years. We had a nice chat over iced chai at Dutch Brothers (Blue Stone, which has better snacks, closes early). I hope we go out again. It’s nice to have a friend in Grants Pass, especially one so attractive. Of course, I was so distracted I forgot to get half the things on my list, including a phone card. Doh!

July 10, 2005

After a morning of trimming around the upper house and my garden fence, I spent most of today lounging about with a new novel I’m reading, American Owned Love, by Robert Boswell. I read one of his novels back in the mid-‘90s and really liked it, and then I saw this book in a used book shop in Salt Lake City, and bought it. Later in the afternoon I wrote the ending to the short story I’ve been plugging away at. I think I need to beef up the middle with more characterization, but in the meantime, if I can find a way to post it as a PDF, I’ll do it. I hate the way prose paragraphs and dialogue appear on a blog. It’s impossible to format properly with indentations, etc.

July 11, 2005

It was a beautiful, breezy day here, and we spent a good chunk of it down at our beach. No fishing this time. I entertained myself with a crossword, some more chapters in the Boswell novel, and a few songs on the iPod. It’s strange to be sitting out in such a wild place, with the river’s song a mere ten feet away, and to listen to music through headphones. I could only take so much of that before I settled back in the sounds of birds and water (and the voices of the occasional rafters going past).

The phone rang tonight, and I was hoping it was my new friend, but alas, it wasn’t. It was Bradley calling to say he’d be coming out on Friday and staying the weekend. He said I sounded a little lonely in my last blog posting. I told him he didn’t need to come rescue me, but he said he needed to get out for his own sake, too. We’re going to chop some stove wood up by the upper house. He’ll cook for me one night, I’ll cook for him the other. Of course, we’ll be pegging on the cribbage board, too, I’m sure. It’ll be good to hang out with him. I’m curious to see what he thinks of all I’ve done here.

July 12, 2005

I was awakened this morning by Gus growling at the bedroom window. I looked out and saw the blackberry bushes rustling around, and heard twigs snapping. Mr. Bear! Or, as I later learned, Mrs. Bear. To silence Gus, I put him in his crate, then I got my camera. Sure enough, here came Mrs. Bear gobbling up the berries. How she stomps through those thorny blackberry bushes, I don’t know. Must have thick skin on her paws. Here are some photos I took. I also shot a short movie from the deck, but erased it by mistake when I was scanning through the camera. Doh!

While I was out on the deck taking pictures, I glanced up the hill behind the cabin and saw a tiny cub walk through a clearing! This is why I think the bigger bear is a Mrs. I didn’t get a shot of the cub, sorry to say. Maybe next time. They’ll be back.

My nephew Ezra’s birthday today! Twelve years old. Hard to believe. I remember when he was an infant, one of the most adorable I’ve ever seen. And he’s turned out to be the sweetest of boys and, from what I hear, a damned good baseball player, too. Happy birthday, boy!

Late in the day Gus went like a shot through the meadow behind the barn and into the woods barking like crazy. I thought I heard some snorts and rustling amid all the barking. My guess is that the bears were back. I used my foolproof trick to get Gus to come back toward the cabin: I opened the car door, started the engine and tooted the horn. He can’t stand the thought of me driving off without him. Sure enough, he came running up to the car. He’s quite the watchdog, but it’s scary to think he’s running down a 300-pound bear.

July 13, 2005

Another morning coffee without half-n-half. Soy milk just doesn’t cut it. The coloring isn’t right and there’s a kind of oily taste that just doesn’t agree with me. I love soy milk in cereal and chai tea. But it’s not meant for coffee, despite what my ex-wife says. As much as I’ve tried, I can’t get into black coffee either. No, I need the creamy goodness of half-n-half. So it’s on the top of my shopping list. I’m planning to head into town tomorrow, since Bradley’s coming on Friday. Lots to do!

I spent the morning doing chores, trimming the grass in the garden enclosure and clearing twigs and branches from the whole length of the DH road.

Lazy afternoon. Same old same old. I wrote and recorded a new song, but I’ll spare you. In fact, I think I’m going to delete many of the old ones from the blog. They take up too much space and they're not very good anyway. I also deleted the movie I made. It used up all the space on my server, and I couldn’t post anything last time. Pictures will have to suffice.

Me, today, around 7:20 pm. Don’t laugh at the hat. At least it’s not the Stetson. Speaking of which, anybody want that thing?

July 14, 2005

A hundred degrees in southern Oregon today, and I'm glad I decided to spend the night in town. Thanks to air conditioning, to the wonders of electricty, the hotel room is quite chilly, thank you very much. And the hotel pool was nice, too. I'd hoped for a dinner partner, but alas I'll be eating sushi solo. Better than cooking for myself in the hot cabin, though.

Gus is sprawled out beneath the air conditioner.

Now I know why I haven't missed the news. I just flipped on CNN and the first thing I heard was that China has made nuclear threats against the United States. Of course, the media is probably blowing this way out of proportion and contributing in its own way to humanity's ultimate demise. What madness.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

July 3 - July 9th

July 3, 2005

Today I encountered far too many of the worst kind of creature you can find out here. Not bears. Not coyotes. Not cougars or foxes or snakes. No, these were bipeds with opposable thumbs. And they ruined what was shaping up to be a nice day. Gussie and I made an early start down to the river in the hope of claiming our beach. Sure enough, there were three rafts shored up, and about eight or nine people lounging around our beach and noshing on cherries. This was a friendly group. I asked if they were camping there, and they said no, they’d be leaving in a minute. Just stopping for a snack. I chatted with them while one woman entertained Gus with sticks thrown into the river. They gave me cherries and offered me trail mix, we chatted a bit, and then they were off. I bivouacked. This time I brought a folding nylon chair and the umbrella, with the plan of stashing both close to river so that I wouldn’t have to haul them back and forth. We went for a dip and then I settled down to a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. An hour or so later, I was three answers away from being done with it, when I heard voices and Gus started barking. Out in the river there were three guys drifting in the water, no boat, right toward our beach. They started telling Gus to calm down, and so did I. “You guys lose your boat?” I said. Right off they seemed a little cagey and suspicious. Three guys drifting down the Rogue in nothing but life jackets? One guy had a big knife strapped to his shorts. They said they were river guides, and then the biggest of them said, “You living at that cabin up there?” I knew the jig was up. I couldn’t bullshit them. I had nothing but an LL Bean day pack, a bottle of Calistoga sparking water, a chair, an umbrella, and a crossword. “Yeah,” I said. They mentioned the name of someone who runs one of the lodges downriver, said he’d told them about the place. He went on to say that they were waiting for a party to arrive and that they’d be camping for the night upriver at one of the stops on the trail. “We’ve got some time to kill, so we thought we’d go check out the cabin. Is it far?” I was going to say that the place was private property, no trespassing, but I feared it might start a fight, and there were three of them, so instead I lied. “It’s a good three miles,” I said. “Oh, is it that far?” Then they were off walking up toward the trail. I cheated on the last three answers of my puzzle, cursed under my breath with all my best swears, and packed up. I didn’t bother changing out of my swim trunks. I just put on my hiking shoes. The three guys had been dressed in nothing but shorts and Tiva sandals, and I knew I could catch them if they did indeed find the trail to the cabin. I knew, too, that they weren’t planning an extended walk in the woods dressed like that. At the start of my trail, I found their life jackets in a pile. More curses. Double-time now. Uphill and steep and 80+ degrees. Half-way up, I could hear their voices. And finally, about to pass out from the effort, I intercepted them at a split in the trail. “Hey!” they called. “That was quick. You must be in good shape. How many times have you walked that trail?” I gave them my best scowl. “Quite a few,” I said. Now what? Do I politely ask them to bugger off? “Where does this trail go?” the biggest one asked. “To a creek,” I said. “Are you heading that way?” he said. “No, I’m going home,” I said, very unfriendly-like, and turned and left them there looking after me. Now I just wanted to make it back to the cabin and to my car before they did. I snatched the keys where I’d left them in the ignition (won’t do that again), unlocked the cabin door, and locked it up again behind me. Here’s where you’re going to think I’m turning into Ted Koczinski: then I loaded the .22 and sat on the couch listening through the screen. I had all kinds of wild visions: the three of them splitting up and coming at me from all sides; the three of them watching me from the dark edges of the woods, waiting for nightfall and then assaulting the cabin; the three of them letting the air out of my tires because I’d been so unfriendly. I suspect they caught the hint and just went back down to the river. But I’m still listening to every twig that snaps and wondering if it’s them. Dressed the way they were, they’d get tired of the mosquitoes real soon. So they’re probably back at their camp. But the thing is, they knew the way up here. How? That, I don’t like.

Anyway, here’s what our beach looked like just minutes before the amphibious weasels arrived:
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And here’s a Western Sandpiper that came by for a visit:

And a pair of Common Mergansers

When my anxiety finally eased, I took a shower and lay down for a nap, and was awakened a half-hour later by Gus barking. I sprang out of bed, threw on some shorts, went to the sliding door, and saw heads walking down the road. Different, younger heads. They looked scared. Gus has an intimidating bark, and when you can’t see how big he is, he probably sounds pretty scary. I said through the screen, where they couldn’t see me well, “Hey, what are you doing?” They had fishing poles in hand, and clearly had just hiked up from the river. “Didn’t you see the signs?” I said. “No trespassing. This is private property.” The kid closest to me said, “Sorry. Can we ask you a huge favor? We’re dying from the hike up. Could you drive us up the road?” Anywhere else, on any other day, I would have gladly given them a ride, and a cold drink, too. But my nerves were already frayed from the cagey trio I’d encountered earlier. “Where are you going?” I said. “Oh, to the camp nearby,” he said. I asked what camp he was talking about. “Not a camp, really. The ranch. The castle house. We’re staying there.” A felt a bit of relief. He went on to say that the other kid with him was related to the new owners. “Well, like I said, this place is private property, and we don’t want any trespassers,” I said. The kid apologized, said the new owner at the castle said it would be all right. “Well, it’s really not,” I said, “and I’d appreciate it if you just moved on.” Then they were gone.

Maybe it’s because it’s a holiday weekend. But whatever the case, my peace has been disturbed and I don’t like it. It’s given me a headache. What I should so is start firing the 30.06 randomly into the forest, so all lurkers will think I’m crazy and go back to their rafts and trails and cars. But that thing scares me more than they do.

Homo sapiens keep out!

For about 37 out of my 40 years on this planet, I’ve spent the night of the 3rd of July at my grandmother’s house in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, across from the minor league baseball stadium, where the city shoots off a damned good display of fireworks. It was always a fun time, a chance to see all my cousins and all the old Portuguese folks, a time to light off our own supply of bottle rockets and firecrackers and, if we were lucky, M-80s. The streets were always packed with people, the stadium mobbed. It took an hour to get out of the neighborhood after the big finale. A few years after my grandmother got sick and frail and went to live with my parents, they sold her house and the tradition went with it. And then she passed on. Tonight a new family is gathered on the square lawn, sitting in their folding chairs or on the grass or on the cement wall facing the stadium. And somewhere my grandmother, my Voa Voa, has become part of a bigger lightshow firing beautifully in some unknowable plane.

Tomorrow’s the Fourth, Independence Day, and I’m feeling homesick.

July 4, 2005

A hot holiday, well into the 90s. I was leery of going down to the river with all the folks about, so we stayed put, and my big activity of the day was weeding the strawberry patch. Can’t say as I’ve ever done that on the Fourth of July. But it needed to be done and it was the only chore I could muster the motivation to do, and only because I had my iPod plugged into my ears and I was rocking out to Luna. I treated myself to three of their CDs when I was in Ashland recently, and I’m enjoying the songs. My friend Peter and I saw Luna’s last show in New York City back in the winter. They were a great band, but alas, they’re no more. Every day’s a holiday out here, so I guess it really doesn’t matter that I spent the day doing little more than working in the garden. I was thinking a lot about Rhode Island, though, and wishing I was at Flo’s clamshack eating clamcakes and chowder, standing around in my still-wet swim trunks, my skin covered with Atlantic salt, sand between my toes.

For the first time in my residency, I’m starting to feel bored often, and I think it’s the heat. When it gets too warm, I lose the motivation to write, to read, to noodle around on the guitar, to walk or hike. The river’s the place to be. Maybe tomorrow, after the holiday revelers have all gone back to their lives. In the meantime, thank goodness for crosswords. I find myself most energized and happy early in the morning, when the air is cool enough for fleece and the mosquitoes all seem to have gotten bored and left. This morning sitting out on the deck, the spider webs gleaming as the sun came up, was the happiest part of my day. Maybe I should wake up earlier and write until it gets hot. Then I can allay my grumpiness with an afternoon trip to the river, or a long nap in the bedroom, which seems to be the coolest room in the cabin. Even poor Gus, usually a bundle of energy, has been listless all day. I’ll take him up to the pond after dinner.

On our walk up to the pond, I discovered a bunch of Leopard Lilies growing near Bill Graiff’s old stream. Quite lovely:

Here’s a look at the shortcut I mowed through the meadow. It goes from the pond to the woods and then the path goes to just above the upper house. The grass around the swath is taller than me!

On the shortcut path I discovered that Mr. Bear didn’t clean up after his dinner. He tore this old tree to shreds dining on grubs, and then had the bad manners to leave it right in my path:

Here’s a nice shot at dusk. I like how it’s dark in the foreground, still bright in the background:

And here’s Rattlesnake Ridge soaking up the last of the sun:

I found this Old Man’s Beard, a cool kind of lichen, on the road back:

I picked my first zucchini. Sauteed with garlic, it was sweet and succulent. Went well with my grilled marinated chicken kabobs:

Tonight this big flying bug came and landed on my shoulder. It looks almost albino. He got in through the gap in the screen door. I really need to plead with the Brothers to fix that sliding door, which is the source of all invading flying insects. The mosquitoes have been supping on me nightly.

July 5, 2005

I followed my own advice and got up around 7:00, when it was cool enough to make a fire, and wrote a draft of a new poem. Then I cleared out the water dips and culverts along the road. I did this earlier in the spring, but the heavy rains in May filled them again with silt and debris. I also cut a fallen madrone that was sticking out too far into the road above the lower gate. A good few hours’ worth of work. Then I came back and put some finishing touches on the poem. Here it is:

My Flawed Utopia

If I could cook for her—
roasted lamb with a demi-glaze,
say, or coq au vin

(anything with wine),
potatoes baked in their dirty skins—
while her wet clothes

dripped on the line
and Allen’s hummingbirds
sipped the sugared water

hung above the deck; and if the light
was just right, and the breeze
easy, carrying a dry trace

of bay and the madrones’
yellow leaves; if she liked
fresh-ground pepper,

the sound of it cracking
in a mill, and sea salt, too,
and coffee sentenced

to the antique oubliette of a hand-
cranked grinder; our laughter lost
for a time in the teapot’s whistle,

then—what? Who would I be
for her or for me but the man
who in the undreamt world

tires too soon of talk
and can’t stand a cluttered table.
In the middle of some story

told more to fill the empty space
between our plates than to reveal
anything meaningful,

I’d find myself dreaming
of the green river, of the way
it hugs my legs when I wade in it,

or of the lizard I saw
doing push-ups on my steps.
But I’d be looking in her eyes,

wet and brown, and thinking
at the same time
that this is what love is—

the sweet burnt crust
of crème brûlée and the dark hair
falling across her pretty face.

July 6, 2005

My hands finally wear the smell of fish—seven of them! Seven laughably small but feisty little swimmers. Against my better judgment as a dignified person and wannabe fly-fisherman, I followed my brother Richard’s advice (it’s his birthday today) and dug up a dozen or so worms from one of my garden beds and found some small hooks on which to impale them. I made a lunch, filled my hydration system with ice cubes and water, loaded up towel and trunks, and twenty minutes later, on my second cast, I felt that unique sensation of a fish jigging at the end of my line. I landed seven within about twenty minutes, all of them four to six inches in length (as I said, laughably small). I think they were trout. One appeared to have the rainbow coloring, but I’m not really sure what they were. Maybe Bradley or Frank or Lang can set me straight. See photos:

I kept thinking of the mother in The River Why, who irks her husband, a fly-fishing snob and expert, by fishing with worms and hooks. I guess if a worm works, throw it out there!

ADDENDUM: Lang says the fish are squaw fish, not very well-liked by salmon fishermen, since they eat small salmon.

It was breezy down at the river. Took the edge off the heat. And this morning there was a most welcome mist and fog up at the cabin. I found myself wishing for rain! I kind of miss the sound of it pattering on the roof. A little rain would make the road less dusty, too.

I saw this deer in the deep meadow last night, almost invisible in the tall grass:

Not sure what this flower is, though it looks almost like a rudbeckia or coneflower. I think its petals haven’t yet grown:

A ladybug. I haven’t seen too many out here. Back in New York, they used to swarm my house, thousands of them crawling all over the window screens.

July 7, 2005

Very cozy and cool last night. I closed up the windows and took the wool blanket off the shelf again. Even made a fire this morning. I took advantage of the cool and cloudy morning and moved five more wheelbarrow’s worth of logs into the woodshed and raked out the debris. I did some work a the pond, too, pulling up sedges and grass and skimming off algae.

I also completed another crossword, this one with a golf-related theme. I think it’s worthy of one paper or another. It’s tough writing clues without reference resources, but I’ll tweak it when I’m on WiFi again, and then send it out. I’m also close to finishing a Sunday puzzle, bigger than a daily, measuring 21x21, and paying three times as much. Not sure if the theme is great, but I’ll give it a whirl.

July 8, 2005

A new poem:

Autumn in July

All the great shakers are at it again,
or as ever, making news for the world.
Papers have yellowed, their edges have curled,
and those deserts have grown weary of rain.

The end may be near, but here it is just
beginning, again, as ever, with birds
doing what birds do, clouds moving like herds,
and the river announcing what it must.

The leaves have yellowed, their edges have curled,
and, oddly, it is summer still. And ants,
doing what ants do, march through my pantry
carrying spoils back to their little world.

I consigned myself to a few hours of hard work this morning along the Corral trail. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t even gone to the Corral yet. The ticks kept me away back in the spring, and lately the hot days and the prospect of Gus getting covered with burrs have kept me away. It’s supposed to be a great place for seeing wildlife, but I know Gus would just go chasing after whatever was moving around those meadows. And I can’t bear to leave him in the cabin while I go out. He goes everywhere with me. So we’ve only gone as far as the creek. Today I raked almost the whole trail. It was covered with madrone leaves, which make for a slippery walk. I also graded a detour where a tree fell over the winter. And I pulled up all the saplings growing along the edges of the trail. I was pooped by the time I got back to the cabin around noon.

I’m losing track of time again, and my watch, when I consulted it this morning, was no hope. It told me it was the 9th, my niece Lucy’s birthday, so I called her in Manhattan to wish her a happy day. She seemed a bit confused and passed the phone to her mother, who told me it was only the 8th. The calendar on my watch has 31 days. For every month with only 30 days, you have to manually make the adjustment one day forward, something I should have done a week ago but didn’t. You’d think a Swiss watch would know to make the adjustment itself.

The days this week have varied between easy contentment and acute loneliness, sometimes within the same span of an hour. Most days I’ve woken up feeling glad to be here and eager to see what the day had in store, but by the afternoon I’ve felt pangs of isolation and boredom. Catching fish the other day was entertaining. I like the little walks we take, despite the mosquitoes. Most of the time I like the work—writing and chores. But other times I’ve found myself feeling sick of being in my own company, sick of cooking for myself and eating alone, sick of all the ways I occupy my time. The funny thing is, the longest I’ve been in solitude out here is about ten days. I can’t imagine being out here in the winter, when you can’t leave. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had people visiting or if I had a writing project going that I felt confident about. The writing comes in little spurts and I have trouble sustaining them for long. Still, I’ve written some good poems and might have a second book’s worth by October. And I’m midway through a new story. Soon I may have some visitors, too. Cindy Thompsen and her brother and sister, who live in Eugene, might be coming out in early August. Then I’ve got a reading in Bend in mid-August, and then the Brothers are bringing next year’s resident in for an orientation the week after. So next month will be full of activity. A visit from anyone would ease the loneliness. And I have my trips into town. Those help.

Friday, July 01, 2005

June 26th - June 30th

June 26, 2005

I had a bit of a scare late yesterday afternoon, upon my return from a resupply mission to Grants Pass. I’d put away my groceries and was heading out to take Gus for a walk up to the pond to cool off, and I smelled smoke. I hadn’t made a fire in the stove since early morning, and it was long dead. I looked south, in the direction of the river, and the whole river valley appeared smoky. I sniffed the air again, but now I couldn’t really smell smoke. Or could I? It was hard to tell. It’s nothing, it’s haze, I told myself, and I started up the road with my bamboo walking stick and Gus, who was glad that the bumpy, dusty ride had ended and that the pond awaited him. I got about a hundred feet before I turned back to look toward the river. It sure looked like smoke. I was suddenly quite worried. What if it was a forest fire started by some careless rafter or camper down on the Rogue trail? What if the fire was even now gorging itself on the vast mass of deadwood and headed my way? I reversed course, called Gus to follow, opened my trusty Dutch Henry Homestead Manual, composed painstakingly by Bradley, and located the number for the Oregon State Police, Grants Pass. The dispatcher answered and I told her I thought I smelled smoke and then the whole river valley looked kind of smoky. Had she heard anything about a fire, and should I be worried. She said they don’t really handle fires, and put me through to someone else. Again, I explained my fear and asked if they’d heard anything. Nope. No reports of fires along that or any other particular stretch of the Rogue. “Call 911 if you smell smoke,” she said. Somewhat relieved, we resumed our trip up to the pond. Near the upper house I had a better view, and it still looked smoky. Or hazy. Up at Rattlesnake Ridge it didn’t look like that. By the time we were walking back toward the cabin, Gus sufficiently cooled off, the haze was gone. Apparently, that’s all it was. Haze. The smoke smell? I don’t know. A weird trick of the olfactory, that old factory, I guess. John Daniel writes in new book about the Muzak he heard throughout his four month winter stay here. I’ve heard music, too, but only when the solar inverter is humming. Sometimes, in that hum, I hear bits of music and talking. Maybe the smoke smell was one of these strange sensory quirks, or the ghost of Dutch Henry pulling my leg. I can imagine him over in his meadow, hip-deep in daisies, having a good laugh. Scared that Yankee, didn’t I? But fire is something to fear out here, especially now that the dry season has started. This forest hasn’t had a good fire in many years, and so the brush and dead trees have accumulated to dangerous levels. If there is a fire, and there will be one someday, it’s going to be devastating. So I’ll keep sniffing the air and watching for smoke and trying to distinguish it from haze on hot days. And that slash pile in the yard, all those apple boughs Neil and I pruned? I’ll torch that on a wet day in the fall.

Well, I got my wish regarding the snake. Today Gus and I went to the garden to water, and there just inside the gate was my narrow fellow in the grass. Gus didn’t see it and ran right over it. A good three- or four-footer, it looked very much like the snake Gus was barking at the other day. But maybe it’s a different one. Anyway, I was able to distract Gus out of the garden and into the house, where I snagged the camera. Then I headed back out alone, much to Gussie’s chagrin. I tried matching the photos to the pictures of snakes in my North American Wildlife book, and its pattern looks most like a rattlesnake, but I saw no rattle, and the head didn’t look like a pit viper’s head. Maybe someone else out there, with better references, can tell me for certain what kind of snake this is. Whatever its name, it’s a beautiful specimen:

Tonight I made my worst dinner yet, and the only disappointing meal, come to think of it, that I’ve had here. It sounded good in theory: fried oysters and cubed steak, with salad. The oysters weren’t fresh-shucked from the shell, but jarred ones I saw in the fish section at Market of Choice and figured I’d try. They looked nice enough when I rinsed them and breaded them. But frying in oil, they turned to runny mush, and they tasted a lot like runny mush fried in oil, too, with a tinge of the sea in there, like the memory of a clam eaten yesterday. The cubed steak, pounded with flour and crushed black pepper and a little salt, sautéed in butter, wasn’t terrible. But it also wasn’t a marinated steak fresh off a mesquite grill, either. And it’s cubed steak, a rough cut the butcher feeds into a machine with teeth to make it tender. Filet mignon, it’s not. I’m not even sure why I bought it. Some vague recollection of my mother having cooked such steaks for me when I was a kid. I guess I liked them then. And the salad? I was midway into frying the oysters before I thought of the salad, and then I couldn’t go out to the garden to gather some mesclun and red romaine and celery and a cuke, so it was plain old green leaf lettuce, with a few slices of yellow onion. Even Gus wouldn’t touch the oysters, so they went into the woodstove. But he did help me eat the steak. But it was a sad meal, to say the least. So, now I’m assuaging my gastric grief with a fine Cuban cigar, a Cohiba Esplendido. And later, just as I’m starting to watch Empire Falls on DVD, compliments of Jim, I’ll cool my disappointment with a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Heath Bar Crunch. Life in the wilderness is hard sometimes.

I picked up some Teramycin for Dutch Hen, who doesn’t appear to be getting any worse or any better. Every time I look in on her, she’s sitting in her nest looking exactly the same. I bought a package of the antibiotic for the Wilson sisters, too, and stopped by yesterday to deliver it. Ann is such a sweet old lady, and a lover of chickens and talk. It’s hard to get away once you’re there. She wanted to pay me for the Teramycin, and I said she could pay me in eggs instead. God knows I need them now that Dutch Hen has stopped laying. So I took out my first installment of a dozen. Ann offered to take Dutch Hen and try to nurse her along with her birds. I told her I’d see if the antibiotic helped, but I may wind up taking her up on the offer. Maybe she’ll trade me for a laying bird—one of her Rhode Island Reds. Here’s poor Dutch Hen:

I finished John Daniel’s book this afternoon (I know, I’m a slow reader), and I recommend it to all—not just for Dutch Henry lore but for its well-crafted, lyrical, frank and intelligent writing. Near the end, I was almost in tears. It’s a beautiful and remarkable memoir.

Here’s a new song I wrote, one of my best yet, I think:

Ive Got You

June 28, 2005

I spent yesterday making the final tweaks to the new puzzle I mentioned in my last upload. It’s an unconventional puzzle with four boxes outside the grid, and has a nice, clean layout. I’m sending it off to Will Shortz in the hope that it’s New York Times-worthy. I no sooner finished clueing that puzzle when an idea for another came to me, and I hacked away most of the afternoon trying to lay it out. I wasn’t pleased with some of the obscure words, so I need to keep at it.

I mowed up around the pond yesterday morning, once again making a wide swath to the shortcut path through the woods. My other chore was to weed one of the garden beds. Now that summer’s in full effect, the weeds are becoming unruly. My tomato plants don’t seem to mind them, but everything will be more productive if I stay on top of them.

Wrote this new poem this morning:

The Lesser Good

Out beyond my garden fence a black bear
fells another rotten tree with a crack,
and I’m clawed from the false world of a book
to go to the glass for a look, and there,
beady-eyed and unbathed, my ursine face,
the one only mirrors know, gazes back
wearing a lonely and a hungry look.
I have been too long pawing in one place,
grubbing through paper and words—and for what?
Where these trees end, my whole insomniac
race waits with plots to fill a trillion books:
betrayal and greed, violence and lust.
There are wars to read about, and famine,
and on the radio the hits play back-
to-back for a man a woman forsook
and for the boy hiding inside that man.
But here I go again, as I knew I would,
tearing through old wood for the lesser good.

My chore this morning was to consolidate in the woodshed and clear a spot for the nice round wood pile down by the barn. I like looking at that pile, but if I don’t get it under a roof, it’s just going to rot out there. It’s well-seasoned and ready to stack in the shed. On my way with the wheelbarrow, I almost ran over a different, bigger snake of the same variety as yesterday’s. This one was easily four-feet long. Since I was in the middle of working, and since Gus was romping next to me, I didn’t go in for the camera. Again, I looked for a rattle, and didn’t see one. And according to the Brothers and John Daniel, no one’s ever seen a rattlesnake on the homestead property. John claims that the rattlesnakes made a pact with Dutch Henry long ago to keep away from the place. I made four trips with the wheelbarrow before I broke a heavy sweat and convinced myself that I need not finish this job today. More tomorrow, in the chill of early morning.

By noontime, it was sunny and getting hot, a perfect day to spend the afternoon down at our beach. This time, determined to do it up right despite the heavy load, I filled up my large North Face pack with: quilt, umbrella, fishing pole and lures, towel, shorts, camera, binoculars, crossword book, journal and pencil, and hydration system. No food, since we’d just had lunch. The pack weighed maybe thirty pounds, just enough to make my legs feel it. We headed out, passing this lizard outside the cabin door:

They seem to be fattening up as the summer gets into gear, and they’re everywhere. Hanging my wash out to dry this morning, two of them were chasing each other around my feet. And the first thing Gus does every day when he bounds out the door is run to the rotting railroad ties to jam his snout in the holes and sniff for lizards.

On our walk down I tried to capture for you one of the monstrous Douglas fir trees along the trail, but the photo doesn’t do the tree justice. You see only a tiny portion of this massive giant. I think two people would have a hard time wrapping their hands around its trunk at the base. Even with Gus in the picture for perspective, it doesn’t look as big as when you’re standing next to it looking up to its tip well over a hundred feet up:

The trailside is dotted with Elegant Brodiaea, but I’ve taken pictures of those already. Here’s what looks to me like Queen Anne’s Lace, though it might be something else. I don’t have the energy to thumb through the stupid Audubon book:

By the time we neared the creek bridge, I was dreaming about diving in at the swimming hole. It was hot and dry, and I was sweating from hauling the pack. I’d already seen rafters float by, but I didn’t care. I’d make sure none were turning the bend and I’d strip down and get in my swim trunks and I’d dive into that cool green water, Gussie splashing after me. But when I got to the bridge—

— I saw a yellow dry bag strapped to the railing. “F___!” Campers. Whatever, it’s cool. They usually camp in the flat spot in the meadow, and I’ve never seen them at our swimming hole. So we headed down the path, dodging the poison oak, and there, sitting like sad reminders that I’m not the only one enjoying this river, were two red backpacks. And then there was a boy with a net. He spotted us and made an about-face, and then a guy in his late 20s met us at our beach. I saw a big blue raft, a cooler, tent poles, nylon. “You guys stopping for lunch?” I asked, but I could see they weren’t. “No, we’re camping here for the night. This is a scout troop. Did you pass a bunch of boys on the trail?” I couldn’t tell him that I walk only about an eighth of a mile of the river trail, that the rest of my descent is quite concealed up the hill. “No, we didn’t see anybody.” The guy shrugged. “They must be right behind you.” Gus looked as irritated as me. What were these freaking Scouts doing at our beach? “Well, we don’t want to crash your party. We’ll head upstream for our swim,” I said. I knew that there was no beach as good as this one, but I found a half-way decent place where there was some sand and where the current wasn’t so strong that Gus would be swept away. I set up the umbrella, laid out the blanket, got into my swim trunks. But it wasn’t the same. Now there were boys crawling all over the rocks with butterfly nets. For a second I considered packing everything back up and heading home, but I’d carried the heavy pack all that way. I might as well try to enjoy the river for a bit. But a bit was all I could stand. We stayed maybe an hour. I took a few casts, got wet, threw sticks for Gus, chatted very briefly with one butterfly-chaser, and then we packed it in. As if their invasion of our spot wasn’t bad enough, as I was traipsing through their camp on my way back to the trail, one of the leaders caught a fish, right in the spot where I’ve fished a dozen times and caught nothing. I went to investigate, and it was a trout. Definitely not a salmon fry or a half-pounder steelhead (which Bradley says aren’t in the river yet). No, though my eyes are inexperienced, it looked like a trout. That was all I could stand, and we skedaddled. Here’s the invaders enjoying our waterfront property:

By the time we got back, Gus was riddled with burrs. I can’t tell you how tired I am of combing burrs out of his hair. I’m sure he’s just as annoyed about it, but it doesn’t seem to deter him from sticking his soft-coated wheaten face right into a thicket of them. Every time he comes back inside, I have to clean him off. If I don’t, they’ll just get more stuck and eventually cause mats (especially in his beard and fall, which is really the only long hair on him right now). Even the short-trimmed parts of him collect these little buggers, and he doesn’t relish my removing them. But what is the bane of Gussie’s existence is my savior: the fine-toothed comb—
—which I ply with great skill.

June 29, 2005

Today’s update is an audio-visual one, a film montage of our morning walk from the cabin to the pond (via the garden). I shot the clips with my digital camera. I’m embarrassed to say that I still haven’t figured out the camcorder Jim was so kind to give me. It's a big file, 50 megs, so it might take a while to open unless you're fortunate enought to have DSL. Turn up the volume on your computer.

Montage of a Walk

June 30, 2005

Well, thank the ghosts of the Rogue: no Boyscouts at our beach today! It’s another warm, sunny day, and some topless rafters just floated past. “Where’s your boat?” one of them asked. “Oh, we hiked in,” I lied. “I like your dog,” said one of the bare-chested ladies. Yesterday was a hot, still day, and even by midnight, when I went to bed, it hadn’t dropped below the mid-60s. This morning I could tell it was going to be another hot one, so here we are by the cool river, sitting beneath our umbrella and hoping that if any more rafters drift by, they’ll also be topless. :-)

I saw a fox! A gray one. Yesterday, in the evening, going out to the garden to pick greens for my salad, I heard a thrash, and there he was leaping out of the compost heap with his long, bushy tail waving goodbye. I’ve been piling vegetable scraps in a makeshift bin next to my batch composter while the current batch cooks. The fox must have smelled eggshells and old broccoli. Gussie chased him into the woods beyond the meadow, but he’ll be back. I won’t have to worry about him getting Dutch Hen. After much deliberation, I’ve decided to put her in a nursing home: Ann Wilson’s chicken shack. I think she’ll be happier there, either to recover or spend her last days.

I was just interrupted by a BLM raft and the two rangers piloting it. At first I thought they were going to ask me for my fishing license, which of course is sitting on the kitchen table back at the cabin. But they didn’t. They asked if I was hiking, and I told them where I was staying. No need to lie to BLM. They guy doing the talking, Dave, said he knew Matt and Kate, the residents from 2003, who went on the following year to caretake one of the lodges along the river. Gus was barking at their big blue raft, wondering what this behemoth was invading his beach, and so they said goodbye, and pushed off with a wave.

It was a hot hike back up to the hot cabin, and it’s still hot. When we got back, the indoor thermometer read 87.9. Yikes. After the sweat stopped flowing, I took a cool shower and had a short nap. When I got up, the temperature had dropped one degree. I had no motivation to do anything but sit out on the deck feeling the breeze, mosquitoes or no mosquitoes. But I could see Gus was getting hungry, and then I felt hungry, too. Lamb chops for the two of us.

With this heat, I’ve been pining for ice cream, which I ran out of three nights ago. I’ll have to remember to buy two pints when I go into town again. Tonight I’ll have to settle for yogurt with sliced pear.