A Posting Update: Next week we will be on hiatus, hopefully enraptured in the Enchantment Mountain Range–backpacking in Washington State. Our next post will be Sunday, September 6th! Because of school and work restraints, we will be only posting new adventures every other week for the Winter Season. Thank you for reading.
Billy here. This morning the sun was ruby red behind a haze of wildfire smoke blowing in from the West. We heard the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have kicked up to an such an intensity that it has been declared a federal emergency. The smoke has been getting thicker all day and now I am wondering about our backpacking plans next week; located a little too close to three different complexes burning over one hundred thousand acres. One of these fires claimed the lives of three fire fighters on Wednesday. I think of my friends who are volunteer firefighters in New Mexico. I think of the loved ones of the young fire fighters who were killed. I think of the people who have lost their homes and every material thing to the fires. Not going backpacking doesn’t seem like such a tragedy if it does turn out that way.
This summer is on route to being the hottest ever recorded in the history of Portland. This month, only 0.12 inches of rain has fallen so far, with a 39 day stretch of no rain spanning the early summer. Back in January, with the record lack of snowfall, I was already foreseeing the summer turning out scorching and burning. Oregon is on her fourth straight year of drought, with no real respite in sight.
Meanwhile, in my little life, the next couple of weeks will be busy, with school starting soon and two art shows to produce in the next few months, I have my work cut out for me. But I know in my bones that it’s important to keep my mind and heart open to the big picture – to not get lost in my little story. Things don’t often go as planned.
Tangentially, on a walk the other day, I had an interesting interaction on Killingsworth Street. I had been thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the rampant racism in Portland. A man lay in the grass and said something to me that snapped me out of my thoughts. I didn’t hear what he said because of the traffic. I stopped, turned around and listened. He liked my hat. Everything about him seemed gentle and kind, but unrelentlessly honest.
“Where did I get my hat? I…I think someone gave it to me.” I clearly remember getting it on Hawthorne street, so why did I say that? Was it because all the rest of my hats were gifts?
He said, “That hat’s never been given away.” His tone was gentle and clear.
I wanted to give it to him, perhaps to make amends for the fib he saw through. He wouldn’t take it.
“I’ll get it another way. What I want is the end of the race.” Did he mean the human race? The white race? The rat race? I was intrigued. I lay down in the grass next to him and listened to what he had to say.
It didn’t make sense rationally –was he a poet, high on weed, mentally ill, or maybe Jesus (or all of the above)? Maybe I met Jesus, then I could tell you that he is a black man. He said there was no room for him at the table, that for too long in the house there has been rape and molestation, that his mother and father were upstairs. I didn’t comprehend what he was trying to say intellectually, couldn’t follow his highly metaphoric train of thought, but my heart heard it and suddenly I found tears in my eyes. He smiled gently because he knew the truth: that it was I who was the fool, not he. Madness and sainthood is a knife-thin line and, boy, he was sharp. I clasped his hand, looked him right into the iris, and told him he was a good man, and I felt it to be absolutely true, even if he was mad.
“I do think this hat would fit you.”
He seemed pleased, so I handed it to him. I told him to take care, and he responded the same. “The both of you,” he said. Damn, did he mean my duplicitous nature, or the fact that I am two genders?
Many ancient cultures have traditions of kindness to strangers, because they could be gods or goddesses disguised as human. I’m telling you, Jesus is a black man.
Wildfires and climate change go hand in hand with social justice and equality: they both require that we start treating our world like it matters as if our lives depend on it, because they do.
Spence here: In our own little neck of the woods, tonight, we attended a party. A fabulous gathering, hosted by the next door neighbors every year called “Dirt Don’t Hurt”. It is a pre-harvest festival sort of party. There is always a great band or two made up of neighborhood musicians, potluck food made from everyone’s’ garden fare, good beer and funny outfits. I opted to not go as Pinocchio, although, still managed to work in suspenders and shorts.It is a great excuse (like I need an excuse) to get reflective, as this marks a year in which we have lived back in Portland. If you asked me, I would say it feels like no time has even gone by. But that also, would be a fib. Much has been accomplished in a year, and there is much to be thankful for–least of which–landing in this quirky neighborhood of urban gardeners and farmers.
Tuned to a more somber note–we knew it would come–the burning. I am only surprised it took until August to begin in earnest. I woke up and walked out into the light from the cabin and there was an eerie tone. Not altogether unpleasing, but an uneasy feeling, of which I have felt before–and remembered that smokey air/light dissonance. People commented on it throughout the day, but more out of a sense of uncomfortableness about how to handle the situation. I did not grow up with forest fires of this magnitude in the Midwest. They still scare me in my dreams. I tried to handle my thoughts more eloquently–talking with folks about the news and writing a song about it before I went to work.
Yesterday, I drew the Five of Cups Tarot card. In one of the sets Billy owns there is a human figure holding a mask down by her side, as if to say she is serious but not hiding and willing to be honest and exposed. I looked up the meaning and from what I could gather the Five of Cups is sort of a “Debbie-downer”–only seeing the cups that have spilled, not seeing the cups which have remained standing, located behind me. Billy mentioned though, perhaps it is more about not seeing through the mask of fear. I included these thoughts in my song. At the very least, this week I am trying to see the excellent opportunities we have in front of us this Fall.
P.S. Thank you to our good neighbors for their photogenic yard!