“The forest edge is a few hundred yards away from the village, past two wooden crosses wreathed with herbs and rowan. Deer, lynx and boar live here, beavers and wolves and—further south—a few bison. I am sitting on a bench with my back against one of the houses, at the end of a summer day, doing nothing more than inhaling: sorting out the scents and tasting each, like a dog. The smells from the forest itself—pine-needles and resin, heather, sphagnum moss, the whiff of boletus mushrooms, moist earth—mix with wood-smoke, trodden rowan berries, long grass heated by the sun, cooking in one of the cottages, a dish of apples. It is entirely silent. Then a voice echoes against the forest wall and dies away.” —Neal Ascherson, “Borderlands”
“It is as big and depthless as the sky itself. You can see the curve of the earth on its surface as it stretches away for miles to the far shore. Sunset has turned the water to the color of unripe peaches. There’s no wind. Sandbars and wooded islands stand on their exact reflections. The only signs of movement on the water are the lightly scratched lines which run in parallel across it like the scores of a diamond on a windowpane. In the middle distance, the river smokes with toppling pillars of mist which soften light so that one can almost reach out and take in handfuls of that thickened air.”
“To live here you should be a friend of rain,
and fifty with a bad job on the freights,
knowing the freeway soon will siphon
the remaining world away
and you can die unseen among your photos—
swimmers laughing but the day remembered cold.”
As I wondered a few posts ago, it looks as if I will be leaving Seattle—and in just a few weeks. As for many far from here, Seattle entered my imagination in the early nineties through the music spreading loud and dirty from here like a swollen, silted river. This photograph, taken just the other day, seems more of then than my era, where rising cultural movements have been overtaken by luxury condos and unjust rents. I’ve loved it nonetheless—especially the beauty of the region, as evoked decades earlier in the writing of Richard Hugo. But did I, during my eight years here, became a “friend of the rain,” as Hugo says? Legendary for outsiders, the rain is stoically ignored by locals. Even to me it just, after a while, became another part of the air, the way certain differences between now and then, elsewhere and here, can seem to disappear.
Driving, for most of us, is what psychologists call an ‘overlearned’ activity. It is something we’re so well practiced at that we’re able to do it without much conscious thought. That makes life easier, and it’s how we become good at things. Think of an expert tennis player. A serve is a complex maneuver with many different components, but the better we become at it, the less we think of each individual step. —Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic
I deny, in an elevated number of instances, the successive; I deny, in an elevated number of instances, the contemporary as well. The lover who thinks “While I was so happy, thinking of the fidelity of my love, she was deceiving me” deceives himself: if every state we experience is absolute, such happiness was not contemporary to the betrayal; the discovery of that betrayal is another state, which cannot modify the ‘previous’ ones, though it can modify their recollection. —Borges, “A New Refutation of Time”
A recent spell of illness and days of heavy rainstorms, strong even for the rain-friendly Pacific Northwest, have lately kept me indoors and looking inward. Contending with this imposed domesticity are the ways we inhabit, through imagination, multiple places simultaneously. And it’s with this compressed vision that I attempt something different with a new series, Interiors. These lines from Philip Levine‘s poem “The Music of Time” seem a good opening for part one.
can go back to my single room,
I can lie awake in the dark
rehearsing all the trivial events
of the day ahead, a day that begins
when the sun clears the dark spires
of someone’s god, and I waken
in a flood of dust rising from
nowhere and from nowhere comes
the actual voice of someone else.
On the way home from a recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I stopped off for a stroll through historic Poulsbo, where I came across this bluegrass family band. They played well, but weren’t too lively. I kept waiting for even a toe tap, but not many came. But as I sat and listened, I noticed the boy on the mandolin. He was standing off to the side, a little separate from the rest, and the despite his placid expression, he was playing intensely, though he didn’t necessarily seem to be enjoying himself.