First you burned, and then everything else went up in flames. I unhooked you from the respirator, and then you died. Do you remember that evening when we caught the bluefish in Menemsha Bay? We were ill-prepared, had neither a bucket nor a knife. We didn’t expect to catch anything, but a large vicious bluefish took the hook. We pulled it gasping to the sand, and had no way to kill it as its teeth went for our bare feet. You took a large rock and brained it. At that exact moment the moon rose full and orange over the eastern shore of the island, behind us. We put our hands in gassho and bowed to the fish. Took it home, cooked, and ate it. Only I remember, as both you and the fish are dead. You were cremated in your gray under kimono, along with your lineage papers, certifying that you were an ordained Buddhist priest.
I’m in an artist’s residency in the southern Rockies, collaborating with my daughter Isabel.
Where am I really? The days of being a Romantic poet in a bucolic setting seem to be over (probably a hundred years ago). There is rural poverty and oppression in Hardy’s novels, but still, the city is worse. And I’m in an eco-system beleaguered by global warming and drought.
This mountain burned twenty years ago. It’s burning again, the scrub oak that sprang up. I’m pretty afraid of wildfires because I have only one fully working lung and I try to avoid the smoke. Yet the fire is contained, now smoldering. On National Forest land the fire can’t be fought with chemicals in the same way it is one private land. A helicopter has dumped water. I feel a huge love and gratitude for the four guys up there working to contain the fire.
And yet I’ve read enough Gary Snyder to know that western forests need to burn to be healthy. This forest fire is a hundred percent not about me. Yet it impacts me. In this it is pretty much like every other problem I’m facing right now—an ill friend, a demented frail family member, world events.
I sit in an old comfy arm chair on the front porch. I should sweep, but housekeeping is never my strong suit. I myself am full of contradiction. I want to: write, work in the print studio, run off to Questa to see if there are ice cream pops in the general store.
Isabel has been teaching me a lot. She gave me lessons on her camera. Taught me to make a monoprint. Yet sometimes I want to quibble with her, even boss her around. Or watch Mad Max with her.
It’s too easy for me to say—just go with the flow, to pick peace and grooviness over confrontation with this world. It’s too easy to say—well, reality is shit, how can I be so happy here in this gorgeous setting drinking my coffee when people are dying in the street the world over.
I’m quite convinced there is a Middle Way not just because I’ve heard its rumors but because I see it moment by moment before me, whether or not it leads me to Questa.
Pyromaniac weather. Forest fire moon. Mountains obscured by mist-like smoke. House shut tights. Clear by late morning–the plume shifts as it moves west from Arizona. The name of the forest fire is Wallow–which at first I took to be a verb. Ponderosa ash falls on the windshield. Setting sun like a blood orange suddenly rolling off a table.
We still have ants in the bedroom–everywhere, including the bed–despite my best efforts to (organically) exterminate them. Somehow it seems too much, both smoke and ants, but I know from long experience that God’s computer isn’t keeping track of me that way.