Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Earth Also Moves, as Does the Sky

The day I left town to start my enlistment in the Army, a fire broke out on the west side of town as we drove to the airport. The intensity of the blaze and the chaotic force of the wind gave the moment a wildness and frantic energy, which at the time I felt was a perfect omen of the things to come.

When I came home four years later, I saw the jade skies of Korea over Reno, three weeks after my discharge. Normally the winds coming off the Gobi turn the air above the Land of the Morning Calm bottle green during the summer months, but in mid 2000, they carried the sands of that far-off desert all the way to the Silver State.

It was so utterly appropriate. It felt as though the world was playing back the previous four years of experience and intensity even as I transitioned into a new life over the course of ten months.

Later that summer, the night skies above Reno burned with the light of the aura borealis, taking me back to seven weeks spent in Artic Norway. There, curtains of green or purple plasma had shimmered down from orbit, while phosphorescent ghost clouds appeared and faded out on the hemispherical verge of the night sky.

Today, smoke from Russia turned the evening sky peach. It transformed the setting sun's light into the warm rose and orange tones of Northern California's sunsets, just as similar Russian fires did once or twice while I was living in Sweden. Then this evening the earth moved while I ate dinner with my friends. Later, it quaked again as three of us sat around the house doing nothing of importance.

I didn't notice the four-point-something Thursday afternoon, when I was leaving work. I wish I had been in an animal room at the time. It would have been interesting to see if the kids had sensed it coming and gratifying to have witnessed their reactions.

I imagine, like most primate responses, that an array of individual reactions coalesced into a single collective reply to the world's surprises.

It feels momentous, this waiting to see if the past several weeks of small earthquakes will crystallize in the form of a monster trembler, or will they simply play out as their energy disperses into other fault lines.

It seems portentous and meaning-filled as I prepare to move yet again into another life. That seems to be my existence on this earth: four-year chapters with one-year interludes.

Sometimes I may as well be a Medieval European, gazing up into the night sky and seeing the divine will and love written in celestial the tracks of the spheres and movement of the stars. I feel connected to all things, but somehow I am less sure of my own trajectory than I once was.

When I took the phone call and arranged for my job interview up north, I ended up locking myself out of my car. Just what does that mean? Am I shutting myself out of something important—higher education, a relationship, a possibility?

Tough to say, especially when so many other omens seem to argue for moving to the Northwest. I had a moment of doubt on the freeway, and then a car passed me in the left lane bearing a customized license plate that said "Go North." OK, not much ambiguity in that one. Then there was me pondering at lunch, early last month, whether I should go on the vacation up the coast that ultimately led me to apply for the job. As I sat there, the waiter brought the bill, and the accompanying fortune cookie told me that now was the time to explore, and that a vacation was in order. Yesterday I started to reconsider while on the elliptical at the gym, and I looked down to see a guy on a weight machine below wearing a dark-yellow Oregon t-shirt.

I do not believe in the supernatural, but there appears to be a flow of potential that I should be hooking myself into as events converge, and the world heads towards its next big change. It seems as if I am meant to go north, it feels like I should, but I can't help but wonder what I will sacrifice for this move. After all, nothing is free and everything worthwhile is earned with time and effort.

Zounds! That was a strong one that just struck! Well, relative to the earlier quakes at least--probably in the 5.0 region. The world shook, glass objects rattled, and the house osculated for thirty seconds after the quake stopped. And now, there are aftershocks. Three so far. Ok, my roommate just checked the UNR seismology lab's website. It was a 4.9.

So, is there a disaster in the offing, or was that it? Has all of this buildup merely been a turbulent side effect of change?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Poem for Cavalrymen

Fiddler’s Green

Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.

Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.

Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.

And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Once Per Year…

I sit down and watch the 1960s European minimalists take on the western with LBM.

The ecstasy of gold scene:

And now for something completely strange and British…

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Whale Chase

I was going to skip the Redwoods and just go straight over to Newport, but couldn't do it in the end. Hiking these forests and standing in their rainy, cathedral-like silence was too important to pass by without a reason better than an unfocused desire to make good time.

A child of wood and sap, alive within the tree.

So much for March going out like a mild-mannered ruminant.

The rough weather was enough to keep the migrating gray whales far off the shore, but during a few calm interludes, there were visible flukes and the occasional triple pattern spouts of the great beasts coming up for air.

The Sea Gypsy
By Richard Hovey

I am fevered with the sunset
I am fretful with the bay
For the wander-thirst is on me
And my soul is in Cathy.

There’s a schooner in the offing,
Wither her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard her
For the Islands of Desire.

I must forth again to-morrow!
With the sunset I must be
Hull down on the rail of rapture
In the wonder of the sea.

Highway 101 at its best

One of the world’s largest sea caves, filled with a hundred or so barking sea lions.

My lighthouse shot, from the north side of the cave.

Uncovered by the storms and violence of this last winter, ghost forests.

2,000 to 4,000 years old, these root systems and trunks belong to a forest, which appears to have been abruptly submerged by the sea several millennia ago.

The same beach last October

Tidal pools

The Newport aquarium

Japanese spider crabs. Supposedly, these live for up to 100 years.

I picked Canary Row for my travel book because I wanted a novel about being somewhere, or about being just in general. My life has been way too much of a process this last year and not enough of an existence. Perhaps this is an unavoidable aspect of starting over again, from the ground up in almost every way.

Heading south into Hood River on the way home. I would like to scale Mt. Hood in the future when I take up mountain climbing again. It is such a gorgeous peak, one that has served as a landmark for many of my travels, whether seen from an airplane window when coming home from Europe or from the windshield of a car while journeying up and down the west coast region.

Overall a good, good trip — exactly what was needed. The interview at the research center seemed to go well, and I can easily see myself settling in Portland for the indefinite future if everything works out. It would be great to live in a location with a multitude of cultural and natural activities right outside my door and even more only minutes or a few hours away.