Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Cold and Wet Month With Bright Days
Here in the Seattle swamp I turned 28 and Jennifer gave me books for our library. We watched Tiny Vipers and listened to the Whale Bones. We went to the zoo and watched the apes for hours. We looked at pictures of Puget Sound loggers and Chinese salmon canners at the Henry Gallery and went to the shore and electrified our faces with the cold wind and water. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were suddenly crushed to death. We ate perfect wood fired pizza and drank a lot of coffee and read a lot of Kafka and talked about his reasons for living.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Happy Birthday Darren

Friday night Darren and I slid into a Tiny Vipers induced trance. Perhaps it was the tenderness with which she played her guitar or the swaying trees projected on to the screen in the background. But this Sawdust Mountain inspired event got me to thinking about how we’ve begun to sink our teeth into this space.

Mount Rainier looms over our every move. This time of year it is layered thick with snow - completely surrendered to the cold. I never really heard the low hum of a mountain until last summer when we climbed our way over molten rock up to the glaciers. When diagnosed with terminal illnesses in our old age we will coerce our children to abandon us on its slopes.

A short drive away, the Hoh rainforest is our magical kingdom in which we consistently expect magical things to happen even though they consistently don’t. They say the air is so thick with nutrients here that many plants nearly forgo the soil as they subsist almost solely on what they gather from it. Last time we were there the salmon were rotting in the streams and the moss was dripping down on us from a carpet in the sky.

King of all this is the Pacific Ocean – an unbridled mess of energy and force. We can’t help but gape at the waves charging us and the driftwood littered about like the plant equivalent of whale bones. We are entertained for hours by the barnacles, starfish and “skimmerfish.” It is in places like this that Darren is able to muster up all his poetic forces to call me his “little dribble of hope” (honestly).

I have of course been connected to many places in the past – the first being the rocks, lakes and trees of Northwestern Ontario. It’s a place where a person who likes to be alone can easily achieve their goal. I think it’s hard for most of us to envision a childhood apart from the landscape in which we were formed. I imagine my children having a place to hunt lizards and turn over turtles and keep logs of the culinary likes and dislikes of specific backyard anthills. These days, my thoughts most frequently turn to the small plot of earth that holds a kind and gentle friend who would have flown far if she hadn’t fallen.

Haiti hits a person like a tidal wave with its energy and smells. There’s something so strong in its atmosphere – maybe born of oppression and struggle and the sheer determination to survive and laugh another day. I am tied to a small circle of land on which the houses of our neighbours are strung like pearls. Good, hardworking people who called me Little Horse as I completed another loop on my bicycle. I hope the atmosphere of Haiti is rich in nutrients to get its inhabitants (the brick I call my sister included) through these unimaginably hard times.

New York was hard and cold. Its mountains were manmade and prone to collapse at the whim of whoever was steering the airplane. But when I found the Indian Rock Caves I thought my soul would explode. Somehow a small space at the tip of Manhattan has managed to shake off high-rises and even harbor an eagle or two. And down a flight of stairs in a basement in Queens is a very capable mom of two funny little girls who gives humanity a good name every time.

I guess NW China will be next with its deserts and flaming mountains. Who knows after that, but I am finding that I am increasingly tied to this 28 year old collection of cells and sentiments known as Darren T. Byler. He is, as 16 Horsepower would say, my mobile home.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

By Way of Apocalypse
The day after Haiti’s earthquake I ran in Ravenna Park trying to clear my mind. I ran under the high bridge where I always run to avoid people. There in the ditch was a guy about my age in a gray jacket and dark pants just lying there like he was sleeping in a twisted wreck. There was a second bearded guy down there too, smoking a joint. I asked him what happened – he pointed up at the bridge and asked me if I wanted to smoke. I ran back up the hill into a girl with blond hair and a purple Huskies sweatshirt. She must not have had her headphones turned up too loud because when I told her she needs to run around the bridge on the other side since some guy jumped off the bridge and the police have it all blocked off down there, she said right away: “Oh, I don’t want to see that.” But when we got to the other side she wanted to stop and look, she said, “ They’re taking pictures of this guy, is he ok?” “No" I said "he’s dead” and I ran.
I didn’t want to see the pictures from Haiti this week either. I can’t wrap my head around the speed of these death falls. 50 seconds from the appearance of life as normal to just another corpse lying on the street, blocking the street, in the back of a truck, waiting to be dumped.
But the story in Haiti after the apocalypse of course is not that simple. There are people alive, pinned and wounded – twitching right now like animals trapped by god and human history. In 1989 only 63 people died in an earthquake the same size in San Francisco. Haiti since it’s invention has had a century of compensating France for its loss of a slave colony, nearly a century of American Jim Crow, and decades of dictatorships, ridiculous wealth distribution, and trade and emigration embargoes. We really have no excuse for what we have done to the least of us – we shouldn’t be able to look these strong and shining people in the eye. They still want to live and love their families, when we've so often given up in the shadow of our armaments. I hope the images of dump trucks filled with jumbled bodies lining up to dump their humans into the earth will be seared into our brains and give us strange dreams for a long time.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010


Rain Forest Marine Florist

What we did with our Christmas Money

Jennifer says this tree looks like me, that she knows we will see elk (or at least "the spots where they live"), that she know how to take pictures like an impressionist, that the beach is the boundary of a continent and that's why it's exciting. She also started learning to lose at Checkers and (gasp!) Take One this weekend. Nothing else to say: Perfect Holidays.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

From Around Town for 2009