Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Travel

CURRENT, CURLING

1

 prevalent, from the west
clear and cooler, from the north
rain on the way, from the south
tempest, from the east

reading the wind

in a flag
in smoke
in running clouds
or water in a clear thistle tube

2

listen, a storm approaches
through leaves and hills
the same sound as falling water

surf repeats its snare drumming
along the shoreline

matching a far-off airplane

all voice great power
resounding

in a stream
in the tide
in air
even in a light bulb

what’s present, now
within some great
motion

around each wing
the flow of thought
keeps running

3

ring around the moon
as a warning

listen, rainfall
will warm the ocean

and swimming is best
just after high tide

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.

COLONIAL LINES

Facing the street ...

Facing the street …

Novelist Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) was born in this 1774 house owned by her grandparents, which she would inherit from them. The site, sitting in the heart of South Berwick, Maine, just a few miles from us, is now owned by Historic New England and open to the public.

Like many New England houses, additions have kept growing to the original structure.

Like many New England houses, additions have kept growing to the original structure.

GAME TIME

Late each autumn, hunters sip Wild Turkey. Stovepipes stick out through canvas walls. Cardboard surrounds their campfires. Nearly sullen, they hunker down in numbing wind. So much has been protected for their harvest. It’s crazy, this unreleased male desire to sing deep and loud. Call for your honey. Bellow again. With a measure of self-despair, the men admire the bulls they stalk.

In these parts, elk management thrives. Bureaucratic neckwear is a moth collection worn in a smoky room. With books resembling bear traps, Fish and Game as well as Forest Service authorities gather in what appears to be a poker party; it could as easily be city council or a gathering of the Committee of Economic Development, maybe even the Federal Reserve Board. Nobody speaks directly of the field or on behalf of its inhabitants. Each player represents a particular constituency, even though nobody represents the elk themselves. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of action, connoting elk harvest.

Kokopelli’s prescription: Around the office, snort loudly. If there are windows, pop ’em, even when snow falls.

Better yet, leave the room. Go to the site, meet the subjects on their own ground. If they trek off too soon, it’s the regulations need adjustment.

Take note. In open country a snow-driven bull breaks trail to lead clusters of cows and calves single-file through winter range. Elsewhere a train of two hundred passes before I lose count. From these huffing creatures come vapor trails — some float parallel to a freeway that avalanche will soon block. Truck hoods and beds await them in hunting season. Through deep winter, though, elk come down to the canyon station. Feeding time’s 1 p.m.

I wonder which grandparents or great-great-grandparents witnessed the disappearance of elk across the continent, save for a few spots. I meet old-timers who recall the elks’ return in two boxcars sent from Montana, the ones that repopulated Washington State. That’s how close they skirted extinction.

Bulls, cows, and calves graze between conifer species. In any journey a name may encompass far more than anyone suspects.

Winning the state’s autumn lottery comes down to two hunters for every elk. Victors’ identities are repeated on the airwaves. Encampments arise between snowy boulders. Not every elk license winner succeeds in bagging his prey, though an elk tag will exempt him from jury duty. Any judge understands how a man on a ledge feels unexpectedly face-to-face with a stag. What thunder breaks heart and horns! Hallowed be tumbling water, on the homeward trek.

“You never forget the bull’s song,” Kokopelli says. “It curdles your blood.”

Men relate time-honored tricks of the trade. It’s the Fall of Cards. Cut the Deck. Deal Me In.

Imagine joining the Elks lodge. When buzzed in through the door, follow a red carpet hallway to the bar where barley-skinned salesmen compared their ex-wives. If a herd of real elk prances past, scouts the room, and bellies up to red vinyl barstools, take a dive. Wait for the blowhards to readjust themselves in front of the mirrored collection of liquor bottles resembling a carnival shooting gallery. Here and at Eagles and Moose dances, as well, there’s too much drunken groping for Beaver, as Kokopelli and I have observed. The game takes revenge. A shot’s a shot. Glasses and reflections shatter. Under glazed eyes, unfit individuals collapse. Their blood reaches out across the carpet. Red on red. Real animals unmask and sniff a fallen Jack of Diamonds. They paw an expiring Queen of Clubs.

When individuals participate in governing themselves, the whole business returns to the right track. All elk ask is a fair shake. Kokopelli knows many by name.

First, he says, ban all guns, motor transport, and steel traps. To be wild’s hardly enough. Before going afield, hunters must fast and enter a sacred sweat lodge. They must flake their own sharp tips and cross range on hoof.

Back at the bar, the ex-wives and widows gather. Who knows where their children are. When they understand the new rules, there’s NO BULL. The whole tribe and herd are in this together.

Simultaneously in Iowa, a man sheepishly hugs his rifle and emerges from woods with a gray pelt the size of a rat hanging at his waist. He could have been shooting beer bottles. A macho urge is not the same as hunting, my boss repeats after taking his adopted seven-year-old hunting the first time.

“Daddy, that man just said fuck.”

“That’s all right, son, that’s all right,” comes the reply. Their dove-hunting companion sips McNaughton’s; the son, a soda. The boy sticks close, raising the same questions they, too, asked as lads. The cycle repeats.

Later, the game soaks in onion before roasting in garlic or being sauteed in wine. This terrain demands many rituals.

Where desert and timberland interlace, foothills run braided above your hat brim. Tufts of grass punch through light snow. Like red mites on paper, elk advance through fog-wisps overhead. Standing beside half-iced rapids, I raise my binoculars and lose count again.

On the eve of the season’s premiere, cities of tents, camping trailers, and vans crowd into wild wood. In a state of sixty thousand elk and one hundred and twenty thousand licensed elk hunters, expect free-fire.

Opening day, an office pool bets on the quarter hour the first hunter will be hit. 9:15 it’s BINGO.

Look out. Glazed heads festoon truck prows. Multi-sail frigates careen through mountains with skinned carcasses stretched across their decks. Give the victors their trophy, even as a hood ornament.

“Many of these guys get so plastered, if anything moves, it’s open-fire,” Kokopelli says. “In the shootout, each heatedly claims the kill. Then the fun begins.”

That is, there are more intriguing animals than elk to hunt. Other armed hunters move in.

By evening, poker-faced herds pressed my rear-view mirror. They steer vans, pickups, and sedans. Slow down, and you discover their horns.

I vow never to dwell where I can’t see premonitions of seasons advancing clearly in dawn. “Watch the Milky Way turn through silence, you assume a point within millions of years of light,” as Kokopelli says. Even hunting can be timeless. Eventually, I see the Dedicated Laborious Quest as a specialized form of hunting.

In a slow drizzle across back roads in the valley, shacks and sheds occasionally relocate themselves to Wisconsin or Maryland. The green growth, scudded sky, lush shrubs, and running fields send memories tearfully home. Was I really, completely Out West?

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

FORTRESS OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE

While much of the surrounding financial district of downtown Boston is rising ever higher in the sky, some of the older buildings hold their own, adapting to change.

While much of the surrounding financial district of downtown Boston is rising ever higher in the sky, some of the older buildings hold their own, adapting to change.

Downtown skyscrapers embody the financial and corporate enterprise of a great city.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

 

BUT TO KNOW OTHERWISE

In this environment I encounter many birds I can’t yet identify: stellar and Clark jays in addition to magpies, much less the common raven I’d thought a crow. Meanwhile, the cardinals, warblers, and finches I knew back east are memories. Even this landscape contradicts my usual referents.

The mailman delivers a long letter from a friend who confesses that sometimes an hour passes before he puts his first word down on paper — something I’d never guess, for his lines flow so naturally. I assumed they originated effortlessly. But to know otherwise?

Don’t force it, as Kokopelli cautions. Wait for the energy to gather.

Keep the pathway clear.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

TOPOLOGICAL DISPARITY

1

any stretch of shoreline
is not two sides of the same coin
viewed from water or land

even assuming you know the twisting roads
or clusters of housing and wharves
or white steeples and beacons
the familiar melts unevenly

even the maritime charts and roadmaps
conflict
one measured in knots
and the other, miles

for many good reasons
the pieces rarely fit

even if you could walk on water
and still the rough waves

2

land is a kind of insurance
if you don’t crash

any grounding and the atmosphere
both move, often in contrary
currents, you navigate a facade

blue is never the ocean’s true nature
even on a summer day
unnoticed red or yellow modulate

when rain comes up
the beacon vanishes
in fear or arrogance

3

no matter how similar
they initially appear

waterfowl bridge this disparity
moving, air

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.

ON THE GREAT WORKS RIVER

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Standing proud today …

 

Seen from the far side ..

Seen from the far side …

 

Even a small stream could be put to work.

Even a small stream could be put to work.

Not all of New England’s water-powered mills sat along major rivers. This woolen mill in North Berwick, Maine, was founded by Quaker William Hill, beginning in 1862, and made blankets for Union soldiers. The Great Works River itself had been named by earlier Quakers.

The mill has been renovated into residences and offices.

My fondness for old mills, by the way, did prompt a novel, Big Inca.

HIKING WITH THE OLD MAN

When you find a guide, follow.

This time, on what snowpack there is, the Old Man leads me away from the highway, past Thunder Creek, and upward past spiraling andesite columns that spilled far below. Over a spine to jut along the Wildcat, a streambed snaking through snow and a soft mud paste, ponderosa, lodge pine, sagebrush and shoots of dried flowers, freshly chewed trunks beside beaver ponds, thousands of elk drippings until the Old Man, Kokopelli, and I open out on the organ pipes of Ironstone itself, where dark clouds gyrate about and spill snow somewhere below us to the west. From the pinnacle, we view a circle of ridges and peaks dissolving in racing clouds: Goose Egg. Pinegrass. Shellrock. McNeil. Russell Ridge. Bear Mountain. Roundtop. Or was that Round Mountain? Aix, pronounced “aches,” Greek for “goat” rather than French for “peace,” as the Old Man informs us. Goat Rocks. Rainier. Adams. St. Helens hides her glacial face. And then it’s down through an April snow shower between sunbursts as Kokopelli laughs at the Old Man’s Zurich accent from his long-ago youth and as migrant flocks whirl in flight. The Old Man names flowers that should rise here in a week a two with an early spring, when the Wildcat rages.

A snow shower chases the mountain’s low sun.

Two weeks later, in rain on Mount Cleman, sage and conifers become cloud wisps treading updrafts. Black talus glistens. The mountain’s so quiet that what seemed important hardly matters any more. Boulders float past the relics of the lookout, elevation 4,884. Step away. Over the edge, where black scree cascades, the carbon rods and oxidizing metal loops and plates of electrical batteries from some previous decade are now scattered among elk and deer scats. On downed trees and furry branches, too. A battered coyote skull stares up between shellrock. The mountains gasp repeatedly in their wrinkled embrace of limbs stretching out from the forest. Cupping vistas of orchards and rivers, the desert yawns.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

WELCOME TO THE CASCADE RANGE

Four hours after setting out from home, our toes approached a lookout at 7,200 feet above sea level. Though blessed with the clearest day one could hope for, Seattle remained shrouded in auto exhaust, a violet haze covering Puget Sound from Valhalla to White Horse. Above it, the Olympics wrote a cyanine line. So much for civilization. To the south, Mount Adams, the Goat Rocks, St. Helens, and Hood scanned our movement. To the north, Baker, remote Glacier Peak, and Stuart dominated the panorama. As we clambered about the trail, the mountains winked at me, or so Todd insisted.

He told me about the Cascade Range itself — about twenty volcanoes strung at about fifty-mile intervals all the way from Lassen and Shasta in northern California to Silverthrone and Franklin in British Columbia. Twelve of them reached to more than ten thousand feet in elevation, and two — including Rainier, which sits on a coastal plain — rose to more than fourteen thousand feet.

“Rainier may look cold,” he said. “You know, all snow, although much of that is actually glaciers — those slow rivers of ice inching down its sides. But there are warm, sulfur-fume caves on its summit. That’s a sleeping volcano that could pop at any time.”

“And then what?”

“The devastation would take out parts of Seattle and Tacoma.”

Oh. But it was so lovely and so awe-inducing.

He turned my attention back to the three ice cream cones to our south. The shortest of them, Mount St. Helens. was so perfectly shaped that many considered it to be the American Fuji, though compared to Rainier, its was somewhat more remote to access. “In the Native lore, the mountain is named Loowit, a lovely young lady who kindled a rivalry of attraction from Pahtoe and Wyeast on either side.” I could guess those were Mount Adams and Mount Hood. What happened was those two big guys began hurling molten rock at each other and shaking the earth. “And that’s all in the Native memory,” he said. “From their perspective, thousands of years ago isn’t that far back.”

Todd reached for his guidebook. “She’s all of 9,677  feet tall,” he said. “Look how pure she appears, even from here. She’s your mountain, Lucy. Or your sister. We’ll have to go sometime.”

I laughed with enchantment. “I’m a little shorter than that.”

“Not in spirit.”

As we sat in the clear sunlight, I regarded at my husband as much as the surrounding wonders. He was trim, with curly hair he could let grow wild, if he’d listen to me. His green eyes sparkled.

“Logging roads lash the needled slopes beyond the park,” he told me. “They’re scarring them forever. Our sustainable logging practices are really short-term in their calculations.”

Tentacles of the vast mountain we stood on blocked any view of our orchard valley. “How small this state is. Look, to the south we see peaks in Oregon. To the north, that ragged brink drops off into Canada. You expect mountains and rivers to run on without end. Alas, they too have limitations.” Yet sitting at the margin of a snow bank, there’s no way to remain gloomy. An invisible trickle gurgled below us. I fed bits of chocolate-chip cookies to fearless chipmunks who put their paws and even their mouths in my hand before scampering away to nibble. I stripped off my turtleneck and was down to my bra so the good sun would tan my back. We had sufficient privacy, just the two of us. Loafing in this place is like riding an intensely colored cloud, for we’d plopped down amid a miraculous alpine garden where brilliant complementary colors harmonize: red-orange joins indigo, royal purple embraces screaming yellow. Some blooms stood out spotlessly white against sparkling soil. The low plants growing amid sharp stone resembled broken china, which rattled when we walked along a sweep of juniper and scree. Eerily, this high country makes everything appear both bony and airy. Todd remembered viewing microscope slides and now saw the resemblance. Perhaps this phenomenon is caused by the atmosphere’s thinness. You could wonder about life, too, despite its apparent concrete existence. How extraordinarily insubstantial we become! Most other hikers veered off toward a neighboring lookout tower, leaving us largely uninterrupted in a heavenly afternoon. But nothing on this planet, not even these mountains, lasts forever. A growing chill indicated the hour to bid flowers and chipmunks adieu.

For more of the story, click here.

UPDRAFT

This is desert. And logging country, too, where the best place to find loggers is in a bar, any bar. Just listen.

“When I’m real loose, I like t’dance t’country-westron music. Out seven nights a week, then a month without any. Can’t work anyplace but woods. Done everything but hemlock. Started skidding horses in Colorado. Now driving a diesel Ford. Not much time for thinking. Slick roads, sharp corners, dumb ladies in the way.”

Here’s how it works, as Kokopelli and I play along.

“Aim a load down logging roads and then highway t’ the mills. A thirty-, fifty-mile stretch each way, four to six times a day while the CB chatters.

“Every spring when the ground’s too wet, the Forest Circus shuts ya down, the heavy equipment breaks the roads.

“That’s our vacation, three months off, taking unemployment.

“Head for Hawaii, Reno, or Vegas. There’s no money in mud. So ya take care of yard work, fix the house, prune the orchards.

“Successful loggers have expensive hobbies like race cars or airplanes. Mechanics, anyway.

“The drought will cut our pay in half. They’ll keep us out. Fire hazard.”

As they say.

Kokopelli tells me doors define a room, more than walls and roofs. Tells me to see their potential. An opportunity to spy or exit at will. Or interrupt. Doors with keys invoke power. Ownership. Think of all the doors in Versailles.

For me, the greatest freedom comes outdoors or while playing a dance with Kokopelli. Now the cat wants out.

Decisions are doors, too. Take style and size. Standardization leads toward smallness. Once, they were French-doubled or twelve-feet tall. Bronze portals to cathedrals. Red doors and oak doors. Lacy castings for an office. Frosted glass at the bank. Now they’re internationally uniform. The small millwright goes under, as well as local characteristics.

When the cat went out, my wife came in. Everybody seems to like her. But I see her other side, when she’s really destructive. I want to scream.

Instead, I blurt out, “To hell with the dark stupidity of their Christian indoctrination! Bring on wild goats! Pan pipes! My roaring conch will shake the walls of this slumber!” I have no idea what prompts that thought. Why Christian, other than the fact it’s the predominant religion in this country? Just where would a person start without any teaching? Most likely, I meant dogma, which I see repeated with only a superficial understanding. But that could apply to any faith tradition, couldn’t it? So just what am I fleeing? And what do I really hope to find?

Maybe it’s a door. Or a corridor. A cavern. A current of water. A trail. A strait gate with a narrow way.

Choose one. And then enter.

I want full awareness. Experience, rather than theory. Ecstasy, especially. For whatever reasons, I veer away from the Judeo-Christian prophetic stream and toward the shamanic traditions, wondering whether the Siberian word shaman arises from the Pali samana, for holy man. I accept the argument that meditation grew out of primitive hunting, the waiting for the game, the belief that game is supernatural, requiring supernatural aid. I must remember to thank the trapped bear, if the time comes. “Boy, do the local elk hunters have a lot to learn,” I whistle — me, who’s never gone hunting.

Kokopelli raises one arm as if he’s holding a rifle. Then, with his other hand, he pulls a trigger. I think he felled what he wanted.

“Yes, hunting antedates farming,” I whisper to no one but him. “See that, Cain and Abel!”

Maybe that’s why I’ve come so far west, just to see the sunrise.

But just as there’s light, there’s also darkness. Trust and distrust.

List the names of deities. As for a supernatural trickster, Mara or Maya seems to relate to Satan, who in turn relates to Coyote. Now for Pan!

Arcane teachings. I consider delving into palmistry, followed by astrology, Tibetan texts, more deeply into Tantra, and back through meditation. If only my paying job didn’t requiring more and more of my time, I might pick up the thread from hunting, tracking holiness through food traditions. The balance of feasting and fasting. The importance of prohibitions as strengthening the ability to say NO as well as reinforcing a group identity. “So what kind of vegetarian are you?”

Kokopelli reminds them this is desert. If it weren’t for irrigation or berry-picking trips to the high mountains, you’d starve.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.