friday at black marsh and environs

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Not depicted: (1) the Eastern Ratsnake that beat a hasty retreat from the trail it was attempting to cross when it sensed my approach; (2) the White-tailed Deer fawn that bolted from its hiding spot adjacent to the trail as I came upon it; (3) the 30+ other species of birds I saw and/or heard.

disordered chronology of movement

I.

Failed recollections to begin with. Slow-creeping toward habit. A giant round metal head. Sudden velocity. Sudden inertia. Pavement merges with gravel. The emergence of a tentative consciousness, neither hard nor pebbly. Vexation of unidentified raptors. Vultures soar over open sore in ground. A blast. Winged assassins. New commonness of thrashers in the street. Feet to pedals. The river like a swollen artery choked with plaque. Ungroundedness. Slow mounting keen of a train not far off. Dream rivulets running off a dry and calloused cerebellum. The importance of a second floor. Eye contact with strangers. Avoid building awareness of a presence. A body imagined close, a body far off yet close, a body buried in dry soil, a body husking a soul. A dipping line, looming and drawing back, tangled in the hanging moss of a halting lifetime.

II.

The exultant dismissal of everything. A hitching-up of trouser legs above this rising level of foreign liquidity. A spreading out tempered by a wish to gather in. Weathering. Rusty rooftop with greenery. The futile accomplishment of deletion. Southern hospitality. Sensory overload. Sensory deprivation. Every atom split to populate a neverending shell game run by con artists connotating the building blocks of life. It’s so casual is what it feels like. An unseemly seeming accidental existence. And yet people fly planes. Against near-white skies. This is a reason not to listen to all the best songs in a row. This is the reason time means nothing. Look out, the fuse is lit. See how it sputters, this heat seen and heard, racing on its journey to a black-powder shattered shack. Every early morning blink of a first-opened eye, this fuse is lit. And wetted fingertips flutter to pinch it out quick.

III.

Bird on a wire, sing your song, lift your wing to the world. Swoop down and over this set of fleet footprints filled in long ago. Expectations of nothing can never be unfulfilled. It’s a something-nothing to believe in, at least. An anti-ideal to carry stuck beneath an idealist’s forever-sweating armpit. Relish the freedom of solitude in public places. Deny detours diverting detritus. Pick it up, handle it, determine meaning and value, discard when done. Don’t look back but for inspiration. Forward motion fuels freedom. Reminders come free.

digging in the shade of the vowel tree

Sylvia Plath wrote of
intolerable vowels
entering her heart
but what of ruthless
consonants headed
to our brains.

We all know about a-e-i-o-u and sometimes y. They may be intolerable but their numbers are small. And they are more easily made to do our bidding. The consonants, in contrast, are legion and their rigidity stifles. Perhaps the only way to harness their true power is to one-by-one start taking them away.

Anna Kavan wrote:

I had only learnt how to be friends with shadows; it might be too late to learn the way of friendship in the sun.

Friendship in the sun is a mirage. The way to it is false. The sun fades color and one day it will kill us all. Shadows make easy friends: we pass through them as they do through us. Few stay long. It is their nature. Sometimes it feels like it is in all our natures to expand and contract, pull away and grow close, like a squeezebox played by a jittery ghost.

Kafka wrote:

No one will want to lie in clouds of mist with me, and even if someone did, I couldn’t expel the mist from my head.

This gets at the heart of the problem, I think. One feels an isolation and maybe a desire to connect, sometimes even a desperate mania. But who can share a dreamy solitude? By definition, no one. And if it was at all even possible, the mist remains. How could we find each other. How could one’s dream self operate in reality? The pilot seat in your head is unlike the one outside of it. Out there, we cannot twist the knobs, adjust the instruments without consultation, without repercussions, without the sun blinding us. In the shadows, the mist, these difficulties melt away.

Jung wrote:

A man can hope for satisfaction and fulfillment only in what he does not yet possess; he cannot find pleasure in something of which he already had too much.

Yikes, Carl, that’s bleak, even by my admittedly generous standards. In fairness, on the next page of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung also states: “The needs and necessities of individuals vary. What sets one free is for another a prison.” So I guess one could argue that for some people overindulgence sets them free, although I don’t think that’s his point with the former quote. I think it is about anticipation. Jung is talking about this concept in the context of the development of analytical psychology, and yet it stands out in the text as such a sweeping statement. But I don’t think this aphorism or whatever you want to call it can be universally applied. Certainly competitive eaters don’t find pleasure in the 18th hot dog in a row that they’ve shoved down their throats. But can Jung honestly think that attaining the love of another person does not lead to satisfaction and fulfillment? I mean, I will grant him that unrequited love is an exquisite thing, and possibly more intense on the whole than many long-term relationships. But no satisfaction and fulfillment for those in love? I don’t know, maybe he is not including love or other emotions here. Maybe he is referring strictly to material things, in which case I willingly concede his point.

Édouard Levé wrote:

The full weight of depression comes on between 1-5 PM, particularly when I am home by myself. Mornings and night are more filled with promise.

Filled with promise. Is that what we are after? Moments filled with promise? Is it merely the anticipation we crave, what Jung says we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in? Anticipation can be tantalizing, I’ll admit. But how. How can we be satisfied with mere promise. Inherent in promise is a pledge to fulfill at some point in the future, not at the moment of the promise. Like an IOU. Is it the step we take to accept the promise that is meant to satisfy? Is it the mental and/or emotional trust fall we allow ourselves to take? If so, what of broken promises. Do those negate the previous gain in fulfillment? Well, do they, Jung? If he were here, I’d have more than a few questions for him.

Levé also wrote: “Above a certain height I like what I see. Below it I don’t.” I suppose we can read this on a literal or a metaphorical level. What is the certain height. And is it a chronological point, a philosophical one, a spiritual one. Who knows. I think we can safely say, though, that whatever the certain height represents, it changes between individuals. Remember how Jung said what sets one person free is another person’s prison.  Some people don’t like what they see above a certain height, while others crane their necks for a peek. Some spend their lives craning for that view, but some are content to not look. They don’t want to know…they look away in fear, shame, embarrassment, whatever.

So what is the conclusion. Is Kafka’s mist the same as Carson’s foam? Sometimes it’s a strain to make all the connections. Certainly reading and writing are key decoder rings. Endless battles, ceasefires, sneak attacks, and truces with the vowel and consonant armies. And maybe the ladder stretches high enough to see above the mist. I think others have ladders high enough, too. If we squint hard enough we can probably see each other, mouths flecked with foam, across the scorched battlefield strewn with bloody words and mangled sentences. Hello there! I do not have rabies. I am merely seeking the sublime. Perhaps you’d care to meet in the mist and discuss for a few moments. I’ll be waiting.

review: bill callahan ‘apocalypse’ film tour

Bill Callahan showed up in my city last night with a filmmaker named Hanly Banks, who had filmed Bill on his Apocalypse tour last summer and made a documentary about it. They showed the film outside on a giant inflatable screen that looked like a moonbounce. This was behind an art gallery in the heart of the city. Trees grew out of the surrounding abandoned buildings. Literally out of the walls. Given time and an absence of interference, nature always trumps concrete and brick. Think how beautiful that could be. A local brewery served beer. I was there with my friends. After the movie, Hanly Banks answered awkward audience questions, such as “Did Bill’s laid-back nature help offset the mundane aspects of touring?” And “Do you feel that how you captured Bill’s personality in the film is how he really is in person?” Not that I’m one to talk. I sometimes obsess in a similar manner over writers, just not so unabashedly. I cultivate my obsessions secretly. Jung would likely not approve.

I’d never been to the art gallery before and when I looked it up on the internet the map made it unclear which side of the street it was on. When I arrived in the vicinity, I crossed the street to the other side, thinking it was over there because of the grassy lot that looked appealing for movie-watching. Then I turned around and looked across the street and saw Bill Callahan moving around inside a storefront. Bingo.

After the film, Bill played a few songs. He joked that he’d been hoping for more screen time in the film. He also mentioned a strange object he’d seen in the sky a few minutes before, like a fixed light, but with a body is what he said. It was probably Foxtrot, I thought to myself. After his third song, he said good night. People kept yelling for an encore, but I knew he wouldn’t be back. Five bucks for a film and three songs was a good deal. I was content.

The film made me think about how many non-zomblobbies there are in this country, doing their things, just trying to make their way in the world. It lifted the bleak veil a bit and let me peek through to the golden light. But then there was everyone with their devices, so frantic to capture this moment as it was occurring. Why can’t they just sit back and enjoy the show. Why with the constant recording of everything that happens around them. When you watch it later, you think, “there i am with my device, recording that guy on stage and updating my status to reflect how much fun i am having.” [Note to self: stop thinking about this]

But the golden light, remember the golden light. And now these intoxicating scents fill the space around me. I drowse into a trance of sensual overload…Labradford’s feedback washes onto the shore of a delicate lack of sleep, coming rain foretold in the shaking cottonwood leaves, rare essential oils pungent and desirous unravel me…and I am gone, like Rumi, on a visit to the elsewhere from whence my soul comes. Or…maybe I’m only going downstairs…

escape to hot springs

Some friends purchased a cabin and 15 wooded acres in the North Carolina mountains so a visit was in order. On Saturday we hiked up Max Patch Mountain, a bald mountain in Pisgah National Forest that was cleared for pasture in the 1800s. The Appalachian Trail crosses the top, where lucky hikers are afforded dreamy views of the Great Smoky Mountains to the southwest. Off to the distant west rise the dark ridges of the Black Mountains.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

The trail to paradise.

And then there is the reward…

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Hot Springs, North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains seen from the top of Max Patch Mountain in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.

Such beauty is all the more poignant when shared with old friends.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, a/t on the a/t

A/T on the A.T.

Farley was beside himself with joy for the entire trip.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Farley in his element, bounding through the tall grass on top of Max Patch Mountain.

There were also non-mammals enjoying the outdoors.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Max Patch Trail, Hot Springs, North Carolina

A Common Buckeye butterfly alights on one of the plentiful blackberry bushes growing along Max Patch Trail, Pisgah National Forest, Hot Springs, NC.

Back at the cabin, we cooled off in the creek.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Creek at Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

I walked up the middle of the creek and found damselflies consorting with each other.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Creek at the cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

My walking stick used for navigating the creek.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Scene from creek at Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

For some reason this little sun-dappled tableau struck me. I don’t think it comes across in the photo, but it was the sort of scene into which you wish you could miniaturize yourself for the purpose of better enjoying it.

And here is where we retired for eating, sleeping (although some of us camped outside), and reading during the heat of the day.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Dave & Betty's cabin, Hot Springs, North Carolina

Farley exhibits signs of extreme boredom outside the cabin.

my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.

good omens for a rainy day

Woke with a heavy heart and the universe responded. Two morning omens visited to provide a lift:

1. Downy Woodpecker on the deck.

2. Ben on his bike.

That is all.

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