From: Doug Firstbrook
Sun, 20 Jul 2003 11:59
Spent most of Saturday surveying the vast amount of work ahead of me on the home front and managed to hang the south deck hammock into which I retired for the heat of the day. Rest assured, I certainly was, I was working the whole time. From time to time I would rise up partway and make a note of an especially germane thought, marveling at the interface between language and feeling. How at times only poetry can capture how wounded I feel and wide-eyed silence joys only embrace. The forestry issue and other political footballs bouncing around inside my weary head all seem to conspire to threaten the spirit that is deep and still beneath my feet. As I move across the farm taking one of many paths changing I am reminded of Krishnamurti and the many paths to god(des assumed) and wonder if perhaps god is not the end of the path but the path itself. This, of course, is the spiral leading me ever in and awaits only the circle’s clever embrace to realize that language only serves to organize within minute constraints what we experience and the agenda we pursue as the result. I now have good reason to speak no word and am reduced to grunts and soundings till dark.
Late afternoon, I slide my kayak across Newberg’s field, the blue a vivid slice through Silverweed and Velvet Grass. Silverweed so green, so dense it appears cultivated. Velvet grass browning now will be purple when the sun slants low across the farm. But for now I am embracing the spiral and the purple will be circle’s hue. And purple – what a simple sound for a color symphony as meadow barley to the luminescent seed head orbiting in the estuary breeze. I unpack the branch clippers and an extra jug of water slipping them beneath the east bridge abutment for late day working cool. I slip the kayak in upstream from the bridge, continue in that direction enjoying the water level view, imagining where on the creek I am paddling in relation to my understanding of the creek from terrestrial observation. I have a sense of it though uncomplicated by number and the illusion of certainty. I am pleased with the upstream range and end at a sandy beach downstream from Durheim Drive. It is still and hot in the deep channel, the grass has a bleached quality in the bright sun. I turn slip downstream past plantations of plantain the intricate spiral of submerged spruce roots beneath the alder log bridge and break through to the upstream air freshet just below the concrete bridge.
The creek is heavy and slow with the incoming detritus and I pause downstream having spotted the otter and slide along the east side sedge to watch them play like water dragons. Their awareness of me does not turn to alarm, but only curiosity and caution. I envy their skill, compare their sinuosity and oneness to my own clumsy presence. We exchange greetings and go about our ways. My journey receives its blessing, the breeze stiffens in greeting, I lean into the incoming, the estuary receives me and I am unborn as man, senseless, seamless, one.
The breeze and tide conspire, the kayak my sometimes clumsy sometimes graceful glide, carries me east into the long trunk like channel of the dendritic (tree like) complex that characterizes Dean Point Marsh. I am here as an observer, to extract knowledge that can in the best fashion of estuary hydrology both leave and return. Recently forming sand bars have fresh new plant communities emerging which I misname with the consummate skill of the initiate. Seamless-ness will require deeper breath. I make a note to bring Esther Lev here, she is my companion today, as I imagine her bobbing beside me a grin in the breeze.
I spiral ever deeper till channels so narrow require my lifting paddles high over my head to push as lightly as possible against sedge as seeds fill the kayak. Oh arrow grass, awash in the tidal exchange and not yet cast in the purple promise of late summer, I will carry your seed, this small gesture to your beauty upstream, for now though I can only marvel at you in place and wonder where your journey might circle to when next we meet. I step out into the sandy muck, sink slightly and pee. Thank goodness I’m not a cow or I could be arrested. I take oatmeal and water, apple and grass, and renew my connection by sitting upon the prickly sedge.
The light is lower across the landscape when marsh wrens sing. Everywhere they gather channel-side to greet me, not a shrill of alarm, but a song so sweet they melt me. Too the liquid call of the tree swallow is present, though the barn swallow dominates as they circle me feeding upon the cloud of bugs risen in my wake. It occurs to me that if the word heaven had been born here than no wars would ever need be fought about the nature of the path.
The tide turns, as do I, an innate skill if there ever was one. I am water am one am wren and otter. I stroke against the breeze cool and think of Delores Martin and rhinoceros and elk and large pink tongues tasting ocean air. Surely love must have no limit. I who have taken the last breath from more than one river otter have also seen otter black against the frozen white of Ontario Lake, lake trout blood so red in the snow, that I have fallen and wept. I move serpentine and wonder at the marvel of the nonlinear outpouring. I pause to admire then enter a slightly elevated side channel. I contemplate gravity, marvel at the distinction between theory and experience and imagine Lynn Brophy and Spud Seigel on violin and mandolin and then the entire Lower Columbia Trio playing at the first ever harvest dance at the Alder Creek Farm. I admire the grass and move on.
On the western portion of marsh, where the tree has both root and sky, there is calm patch behind small islets of marsh grass. I know that I will rest here long before I do. Then I become i, still. Lee Schore and Jerry Atkins take lunch to and photos of Tallwoman Farm (aka lunacy lane) on Wednesdays. If you wonder of the tallwoman name, then you have yet to see the beautiful Pecores and Kamilas that grow there like strong corn laughing in the summer. Young fruit trees bearing. Love has no limits. Mache has no pants. I admire the grass and the grass admires me. I stay still, the sanderlings wink in the sun’s western slant, a dozen Canadian geese are tucked into western margin of the center marsh. I contemplate getting closer to identify more precisely just what variety of geese, get over it am still am one am water and fish.
Recently on a filming paddle at low tide i gazed, where my eyes glance sideways now, into the fire-like falling sun glare, and clams squirted high skyward one after another like a hydrological oscilloscope or a rhythmically impaired metronome, the beat too complex for the bean counters and chartmakers. The mozartian muck was improvising…and it was e.e. “anyone’s guess whose mad skill guides the moon.” Imagine here if you will Bob Brook and Scott Wagner fashioning a tender weave of eel grass medley. Love has no limits. I am Skye am Hank am Jamie am Chuck am still am water am one.
I paddle hard into the outgoing, making my way back to the shifting mouth of Alder Creek, pausing for a rest and inquiry downstream and tucked into the west end of otter island. I admire the lay of the small sand spit, with its emergent grasses laid flat fur like and wet, elongated and otterish. Otter today, humpbacked whale tomorrow. Ascending (read gravity) Alder Creek is work as water depth falls as current increases. Passing the concrete and heading for the Alder Log bridge it begins to thunder and then the sound of freight moving upstream with me, then buffalo beat against the earth that trembles ground all around. The elk and i have entered the farm simultaneously, using the riparian zone to make are way upstream. I focus paddle and move past my place of entry and in to the deeper calmer depths of the farm and onto the bank, above the east side slough and tide gate, to tie off to some holly. I leave kayak blue and beached like an old rowboat to the backside of slough, grab my gear and head for the bridge. The elk are using the sun to advantage seeing me more clearly than i see them. Not as if i haven’t done the same, though the largest bull stands proudly forward and honors me and i him as we go our separate ways.
I cut a few pieces of scotch boom off the dike, soon realizing how dull and undersize they are and plan to return with bigger clippers some other time when it feels less like duty and more like love.
P.S. When I got home and settled in, I went to the cupboard and got out a small jar of Cape Falcon Salve: to heal & soothe, cuts, bumps & bruises. Plantain, chickweed, self heal, calendula, St Johns wort, olive and love. Tallwoman tonics. Love has no limits.