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2015 - APRIL - Washington, Oregon, California

April 19 - Seattle from the Ferry

Iris closing. Fade to black. The Ghost Symphony begins its long overture. The Masque of Death is now over. Here begins the haunting, the Memory Play. It's a blue fading. 

The ozone odor of Elliott Bay lacing with ice myth winds from the Olympic Mountains. Olympus. Dwelling place of the Gods. Great cathedral collapses of bone and skull being ground into hieroglyphic moraine under the inexorable glide of glacier, ungathered middens in the shadow of a crumbling Mytikas. 

There's my lodestar, my burned-out black-holed Polaris. 

The ferry rolls under a cerulean sky on a cyan sea piloted invisibly. The deck is littered with family, tourist and friend. I turn my back on Seattle. Shores teeming with the invisible dead Indian tribes of a white man's lie. My ghosts crowd the pale cavern of my skull, foremost the old woman searching for the corner of a circle, chanting untranslatable death prayers. I am as turned around as an apostate Buddha: east to west. 

I take shelter in my car - Cherokee, Laredo, Chevrolet (old words in an old mouth) - swallowed with so many other shades in the shadows of the hold. Across the waters towards the mountains. 

I wonder who amongst us will drink from the waters of the River Acheron?

April 19 - West 101
Olympic Peninsula, WA

El Camino Real. Along the arterial passage from this northernmost point of Port Angeles to Los Angeles. The Pulse of Angels. Dreadful messengers. Here is the Southern Passage for me. A binary haiku. 

I pull over to mark the Highway sign. But also to revel in the freedom of the road. Machine roars and rips past, rider and driver, all passengers through time. While I, standing apparently stupid and still on the side of the road  photographing a sign, am suddenly outside of time. 

These corpuscles of urgent determination to get nowhere as soon as possible, asap, asap, asap. I hear the voices in my head of those who pass by: what's he doing? why's he stopped? what's he looking at? what's his problem? why's he smiling? why's the man laughing? does he need help? Should we stop? Is there something to look at? on the side of the road. Mostly, a vague figure teasing at their boredom-unto-death. 

And the furious turning of the hurricane world drowns out all this human noise. 

Somewhere a sparrow is flying over the Himalayas, a fragment of silk stolen from a sleeping princess in it's beak. Upward and up and up and over the uppermost exposed peak, the silk grazing over the stone like a lover's breath on skin. And in time, the sparrow and the silk will wear the mounting down to nothing. Such is a single Night of Vishnu. 

I stand on the side of the road under a binary sigil, 101, the Pulse of a Dreaming God thrumming in the concrete under my feet, thrilling me with the possibility of my instance of awakening. 

April 19 - Toadlilly House
Port Angeles, WA

At the Inn for Wary Travelers. At least, I am. All strange towns seem odd. Their own peculiar smell. A sense of being here in the off-season. Everything deserted now. I am sitting on a couch in an empty room waiting to pay for a bed to sleep in. A dog jumps into my lap, stands guard, watchful for things I cannot see or hear. But they are coming...

April 19 - Toad Lilly House Dog
Port Angeles, WA

Outside I meet a couple, perhaps the dog's owners, young strung out recoverers. Each with the exhausted gaze 
of those who have been surviving in the trenches. There is a jagged zag of a white scar across his neck. His voice is a rasp. His eyes look about six feet behind me to the right. She keeps her head down, never making eye contact. 

I am a stranger. No name. No history. The possibilities of freedom hit me. I can say and be anyone. Surprising, but it has only ever been this way. The movement brings it out fresh. 

April 19 - Port Angeles, WA

In the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. 

Raymond Carver is buried here. Seems a good town for sober man. On his tombstone
in Ocean View Cemetery:


No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”

I don't make the pilgrimage. What he meant to me was not enough.
Next time. 

April 19 - Shell's Polar Pioneer Oil Drilling Platform
Port Angeles Harbor, WA

According to the exploration plan Shell submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management earlier this month, the Polar Pioneer is 319 feet tall and capable of carrying more than 11,000 barrels of fuel and more than 12,000 barrels of bulk cement. It was built in 1985 by Hitachi Zosen (which, nearly three decades later, would also build the tunnel-boring machine that's now broken down underneath Seattle). Now it's owned by Transocean and leased to Shell. In 1987, the Polar Pioneer drilled beneath more than 1,400 feet of water—the first rig in Norway to do so.

It's also the first rig to arrive in Washington after the Port of Seattle quietly cut a deal to allow Shell's Arctic equipment to stay in the city's Terminal 5 during the drilling off-season. To Greenpeace and the local activists planning to stop Shell from ever leaving Seattle, the Polar Pioneer represents a means of planetary destruction. Earlier this month, six Greenpeace volunteers scaled the rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and latched onto it for six days. Not long after the rig arrived in Port Angeles, local activists also put out a video starring the "Polar Polluter" and asked people to join demonstrations in Seattle in May. (Shell did not respond to a list of questions about the Polar Pioneer and the company's preparedness for Arctic drilling.)

The Polar Pioneer is supposed to replace the Kulluk, the ill-fated drilling unit that ran aground on an Alaskan island in 2012. Experts say Shell has invested more than $5 billion in exploring the Arctic for oil and gas, but its last drilling season, in 2012, ended in well-publicized failures, of which the Kulluk was only one. The Noble Discoverer, a drillship that's also soon coming to Seattle, almost ran aground; a day after work began, a 30-mile-long ice floe chased the Noble Discoverer away from a well; and later on, the operators of the Noble Discoverer pleaded guilty to eight felonies for faulty pollution management systems, among other errors.

by Sydney Brownstone in The Stranger, April 22, 2015

Key phrase:

Hitachi Zosen
the tunnel-boring machine
owned by Transocean and leased to Shell
Terminal 5
a means of planetary destruction
replace the Kulluk
the ill-fated drilling unit
30-mile-long ice floe
the Noble Discoverer pleaded guilty
among other errors

April 19th, 7:11 pm - Sidewalk Markers
Port Angeles Waterfront, WA

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the way is marked by yellow arrows and shells. Some are subtle and not easily discerned. You learn, after getting lost and backtracking a few times, to be ever on the look-out for the faintest hint of a yellow arrow or a seashell. And so walking along the Waterfront in Port Angeles, idly musing over where I had come from and where I was going, I was stopped in my tracks by this shell embedded into the walkway. 

The world is full of sign and portent - if only we had eyes to see. We are surrounded by a meaning and a purpose that transcends the brief occasion of our human being. According to Plato, harmony with the transcendent is the best we can hope for. Harmony within ourselves, with others whom we live, with our community, city, state and world, and beyond to find a tuning to the natural world, to the earth, sea and sky. "Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck / And yet methinks I have astronomy." There's a zodiacal influence in all things, beyond the pale of our understanding, yet there still, symphonic, and within the potentials of our tuning. 

Cassandra at the city gates, throwing bones upon the ground, speaking prophecy to all who pass by, dismissive, heedless, blinded in their judgments. Around these bones, she draws a crimson thread, her soothsayings sibilant, lost in the wind, as horsemen pass by their own yawning graves. If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear. 

April 20 - Hurricane Ridge
Olympic National Park, WA

That which cannot be photographed. You cannot "take a picture" of a mountain, much less a range of them. Nor the ocean, nor the sky. Nevertheless, I persist in my folly. Facing Hurricane Ridge, from this 5,242 foot perspective, you are walking on a lower aspect of the roof of this world. The dome of the blue sky seems almost to lift you upwards, the bulky mass of Mt Olympus rising to 7,956 ft far in the distance. I think: perhaps the panoramic setting will do, twisting myself nearly 360 degrees. Later I look at the photos. That's not it, not even close. The expansion of being under a big sky in the presence of massive mountains and simultaneous contraction of being in the keen awareness of your own momentary transience and insignificance find no translation. 

On the 4th of July, 1778 (just four years after the Spanish had named the mountain) Captain John Meares laid eyes on the mountain from his British ship and decided to call the mountain “Mount Olympus,” as he thought it looked like it could serve as a home to the gods. While the name was marked on maps, the name wasn’t made official until Captain George Vancouver entered Mount Olympus on the official map in 1792.

April 20 - Lake Crescent
Olympic National Park, WA

I have driven by Lake Crescent before, catching quick glimpses between attending to the twisting road, snapping shutter quick vistas between the trees. There's something to this. The sublime that fills in the gaps, the world between the gutters of two comic book panels, the creation of meaning in film montage. Not that it was disappointing to park the car and stand on the water's edge. But it added to the frustrations of photography. Of attempting to fix a place in this extension of memory. 

However, to say that “the camera cannot lie” is merely to underline the multiple deceits that are now practiced in its name. Indeed, the world of the movie that was prepared by the photograph has become synonymous with illusion and fantasy, turning society into what Joyce called an “allnights newsery reel,” that substitutes a “reel” world for reality. Joyce knew more about the effects of the photograph on our senses, our language, and our thought processes than anybody else. His verdict on the “automatic writing” that is photography was the annihilization of the etym. He saw the photo as at least a rival, and perhaps a usurper, of the word, whether written or spoken. But if etym (etymology) means the heart and core and moist substance of those beings that we grasp in words, then Joyce may well have meant that the photo was a new creation from nothing (ab-nihil), or even a reduction of creation to a photographic negative. If there is, indeed, a terrible nihilism in the photo and a substitution of shadows for substance, then we are surely not the worse for knowing it. The technology of the photo is an extension of our own being and can be withdrawn from circulation like any other technology if we decide that it is virulent. But amputation of such extensions of our physical being calls for as much knowledge and skill as are prerequisite to any other physical amputation.

- Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man - Marshall McLuhan


April 20 - Mora Campground
Near the Quillayute River and Rialto Beach, WA

I've been here before with on a Black Drop retreat. Always surprising how memory reshapes the territory. I'd expected and hoped the campgrounds to be deserted. But there was a large group of Christian Youth. Most of the central loops were full of connected groups of tents and tables. Buses idled in the parking lot. Group leaders were setting up large table full of food to feed the groups. Not the peace and quiet that I was looking for. 

I found the most remote campsite available, set up my tent territorially, and headed down to Rialto Beach, determined to find solitude. 

April 20 - Quillayute River, WA

Though never a large tribe, the Quilliute were stubborn fighters when attacked and aided by the inaccessible character of their oceanwashed, mountaingirt home they successfully maintained their integrity against the frequent attacks of their enemies.  When threatened or attacked by overwhelming numbers the villagers at the mouth of Quillayute River possessed an impregnable refuge in James Island a lofty perpendicular rock close to the mainland, from which it is separated by water except for a short time at ebb tide. A single difficult trail leads to the top where a few acres of land are now cultivated as gardens.  Here was one of the Quilliute villages to which the people of the mainland retreated in time of stress and the fear of being received by rolling bowlders deterred the enemy
from following.

- The North American Indian, Edward S. Curtis

The native account of an affair of about the year 1850 is instructive not only as regards intertribal relations, but as showing the rapid growth of the mythical element of traditional history.  The narrative relates that when a party of Makah came down in a canoe to visit the Quilliute, some boys threw stones at them and at night while the visitors were in a house some young men stood the canoe on end. It remained so until morning, when the Makah saw it. This of course was an insult as it exposed them to quiet ridicule, none the less galling because it was wordless. At the end of their visit they asked seven of the leading men to go back to Dina (Neah bay) with them promising valuable presents such as slaves and guns.  So the Quilliute and their wives embarked in a large canoe and accompanied them. At Diya they were led into a chief"s house and after the usual feast there was a dance. While the Quilliute danced Makah warriors suddenly entered and each of the visitors was covered with a gun. All were shot down except Kihlabultlup who seized his gun and fired; then throwing the weapon aside, he drew his knife and
leaped among the Makah, stabbing right and left.  They broke and fled through the doorway and Kihlabultlup remained alone in the house.

After a while the Makah sent one of their number inside with his gun cocked ready to shoot.  Kihlabultlup however had dug a hole at one side of the doorway and after the Makah had passed him he leaped out and cut him down. He dug another hole on the other side, and in like manner killed the next man who entered. Then they contented themselves with merely watching the house and Kihlabultlup perceived that he must die sooner or later if he did not make a sortie. So he rushed out and passed around the house intending to reach the beach; but he found himself entrapped in corner where two houses met and the Makah fell upon him and killed him. They removed his blanket to find out why they had been unable to kill him and they found marks on his body where the bullets had flattened themselves against his flesh, as if they had been shot against a stone.  Then they cut him open and found that his heart was covered with hair, and his intestines, which were very short, were striped. They cut off his head and set it up on a pole with the others and they buried his body on the beach with the other bodies.

One night they heard a band of howling timber wolves come down to the beach and gather about the graves and in the morning the people went to see what had been done.  They saw that the wolves had not disturbed any bodies except that of Kihlabultlup and this they had carried away: for Kihlabultlup had obtained the super natural power of the wolves while tracking elk and thus possessed strength to fight although he had never been known as a warrior.

- The North American Indian, Edward S. Curtis

It happened long ago that Q'waeti' journeyed all over the land setting the people aright and instructing the people that would come in the future how they should act. Q'waeti' instructed the people how to build houses. 

One day Q'waeti' came upon Beaver. Beaver was sharpening his stone knife, and Beaver was very stingy. Q'waeti' asked what was Beaver doing. Whereupon Beaver said: "I am sharpening my knife in order to kill Q'waeti'," said Beaver. Then Q'waeti' took what Beaver was sharpening and stuck it on Beaver's tail. Then he said: "You shall always have this stuck to your tail, and live in the water. You will just slap the water with your tail and dive when the people come." 

Then one day he came upon Deer. Deer was sharpening his shell knife. Thereupon Q'waeti' asked Deer what was he sharpening it for. Whereupon Deer said: "I am going to kill Q'waeti'," said Deer. Then Q'waeti' seized the shell that Deer was sharpening. Then he stuck it on Deer's ears. He said "When you see people you shall run frightened and stop, and look back." Then Q'waeti' went on his way. 

Not long afterward he reached Q'wayi't'soxk'a River. But he did not find any people. Then Q'waeti' spit on his hands and rubbed them. Doing this he rubbed off the human dead skin into the water. Thereupon many people appeared. Then Q'waeti' said to the people whom he had made: "You shall dwell here," said Q'waeti'. "Your name shall be Q'wayi't'sox (Queets.)" 

Then Q'waeti' reached the Hoh people. He saw that these people walked on their hands carrying their smelt nets between their legs. At that time all the Hoh people walked on their hands. They were called the Up-side-down people. Since that time the Up-side-down people were known as the first people who had existed. Then Q'waeti' turned right side up the ones who walked on their hands. "You shall use your feet to walk," said Q'waeti' to the former Up-side-down people. "Go and fish smelt. You shall catch much fish when you fish smelt." Ever since then there is much smelt at Hoh. 

Then Q'waeti' went on and reached the Quileute land. He saw two wolves. There were no people here. Then Q'waeti' transformed the wolved into people. Then he instructed the people saying: "The common man will have only one wife. Only a chief may have four or eight wives. For this reason you Quileute shall be brave, because you come from wolves," said Q'waeti'. "In every manner you shall be strong." 

Then Q'waeti' reached the Ozette people (Makah.) There he saw two dogs. Then he transformed the dogs into people. Then Q'waeti' gave instructions to the people how to search around the rocks for devil-fish, and to get all kinds of sea food. Then Q'waeti' went on. 

Then he came to the Neah people. He saw many people. The people did not know how to fish. So, the Neah people were hungry, about to perish. Then Q'waeti' instructed one person how they should fish. Q'waeti' instructed them how to troll when trying to fish. Ever since then there is much fish in Neah Bay. When Q'waeti' finished he said that there would be much fish at Neah Bay. 

Then Q'waeti' went on setting aright and creating people, going around the land, and instructing them in what they should do in order to subsist.

April 20 - Driftwood
Rialto Beach, WA

This graveyard of fallen trees, stripped of bark and branch, bleached from sea and sun, resembling enormous bones tossed up from the sea's renderings to construct strange structure on the sands. Clambering over them, walking along their lengths, wondering from what rough forests they came. They seem gigantic, fallen from mythic lands, uprooted in violence by an enraged Polyphemus to throw at the mocking laughter of No One. In an evening light, these bones born out of the fallen forms of forgotten gods, imprisoning flesh dissolved to liberate captive inner forms, are elegiac. Thanus having come opposite of Palodes, announcing the Great God Pan is dead, slips into a sea of lamentation, swims to the beach and sits waiting as the Great God's bones wash in on the waves. 

April 20 - The Light
Rialto Beach, WA

In 1872, Shibata Zeshin painted the sublime and subtle Waterfall and Monkeys. Just over a hundred years later, my mother and I stood before this hanging scroll at the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. 

After a while, my mother said,
- I know just how that Mother Monkey feels. 
- What makes you think the Monkey is a mother? I asked. 
- Because you can see that although she was being pushed to the limits of her patience, she still cared for all those little monkeys of hers. 
- And a father wouldn't care? 
My mother laughed. 
- A father would be long gone by now.
Then we both stood silent before the painting. 
- I like how the waterfall is nothing, I said. 
- What do you mean nothing? she asked.
- It's not painted. It's just the blank canvas coming through.
- But it's not nothing, she said. It's light. That what you see. 

April 20 - Bird
Rialto Beach, WA

In the liminal zone, where the sand reaches up into the forest, there is a grove of dead trees, poisoned spines stuck into the sand, roots reaching down into salt water, bare branches chattering with raven and crow. As far as I can see, I am alone on this beach - as far as other human beings are concerned. It's an enormous, alien world of a sudden. And I'm impressed again my own insignificance. 

It's easy to imagine a post-Doomsday scenario. Myself alone, the thundering surf, the lowering skies, distant islands full of the bones from dead tribal chiefs, shaman, Medicine women, children. I wonder how it would be... to get a boat. 

Behind me a crow cries out from the uppermost vertebrae of the tree's spine. 

Perhaps some thoughts are forbidden, violations of a natural hospitality. Invitations to be wounded, vulnerable. The bones may be mouldering and rotting into dust across the water, but the restless spirits roam free, unlimited by sea or land. 

The crow cries out again in stark affirmation. 

April 20 - James and Little James Island
Rialto Beach, WA

James Island or Akalat (Top of the Rock) figures prominently in the history of the Quileute people — from documented oral accounts, ethnography, ethnohistory and archeology. A natural fortress, the island was the location of a fortified village in 1788 when first described in Meares’ written accounts, and this defensive function was maintained into the second half of 1800s. Evidence of habitation in this area comparable to the Ozette site goes back 8000-9000 years, possibly longer. James Island is also known as a source of spirit power for the Quileute people and a place where high-status individuals were placed in canoes in the trees after death. In the second half of the 1800s, the island was used as a garden where potatoes and possibly other root crops were grown and stored in cellars. The viewpoint provided by the 160-foot high rock was ideally suited for sighting whales. It was a natural lookout to defend the village against occasionally hostile neighbors. In view of all of these and other uses as well, it is not surprising that the cultural resources of James Island are profoundly significant in Quileute culture and group identity.

April 20 - Bull Kelp
Rialto Beach, WA

Bull kelp is a fascinating giant brown colored alga. It lives in the sea and if there is enough wave action it can grow up to 3 feet in a day. Typically bull kelp grows up to about 115 feet in length, but they have the potential to grow up to about 300 feet. Like other algae, bull kelp converts energy from sunlight and takes its nutrients from the surrounding water. The range where they live on the Pacific coast is from Alaska to southern California. The best known species is the giant kelp, and it is in the family known as Lessoniacea.

One thing that people have found is that bull kelp is a great source of algin, a natural thickener used in paint, beer, ice cream, etc. People harvest kelp for these products, but of course they have to be careful and limit their harvesting so that they don't damage the kelp ecosystem. Another place where the kelp proved useful was with the Indians. They discovered that the bulb of the kelp was hollow and used it for carrying water, then they dried the stems over a fire and used them for fishing line. Later the pioneers found that it tasted good and started to pickle it; it is still used today for this purpose. The nutritional value of kelp is high. It is high in protein, iron and calcium.

Sea otters use bull kelp to anchor themselves and the blades of it have been found to provide a good hard surface for mussels and Bryozoans to attach to. While snails, crabs, shrimp, starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, sea squirts and many other animals use it as shelter, Also urchins, chitons, and limpets all eat bull kelp.

The bulbous float at the end is filled with gas containing carbon monoxide. Rafts of beached kelp help reduce beach erosion. Kelp forests help soften the force of waves. Bull kelp has three different parts: the bulb, the stipe, and the holdfast.

Apart from using kelp for factory-made products, people have also found kelp as a source of entertainment. Some of my fellow classmates have found playing kelp like a trumpet, quite a blast. Also, my aunt takes bull kelp, dries it and uses it like shaker.

April 20 - Stone
Rialto Beach, WA

It is on Rialto beach where all inward momentum of purpose and intention, destination, stops. The gravity of the world from whence I came is gone like my mother's embrace. This new weight of freedom is as strange and awkward as a fifty pound hat. 

I have come from sickness, old age, insanity and death. Buddhistic apothegms unhelpful. From my mother's unravelled mind, her memory scattered into shards like a broken porcelain vase. A puddle of self, once contained within, now spreading thinly through the fragments into insanity. The witnessing. Those moments before leaving her at night, leaving her in the confines of a madhouse filled with uncaring strangers and more insane inmates. Hearing her crying and begging me not to leave her alone, to take her home. Looking into those eyes for some sign of the woman who once was my mother, searching for an untangled shred of her former self, finding only fragments that no longer fit together. 

There is a shell of a what was once my mother, crying in the hallway, head sunk down on her chest, heaving sobs, as I walk away from her again, leaving her to suffer, betraying her, abandoning her. Please don't go! Please don't leave me. Please take me home, take me with you. Please, please don't leave me alone!

Rialto Beach is more broken stone than sand. What shells are surrendered by the sea and surf are shattered against the stone. The old world and its suffering haunt my memory. I sit upon a fallen tree and listen to the sound of surf and wind, cry of gull and crow. The ebb and flow pulsing through me, breaking me down to an essential thing. Everything fragile and delicate sheared away, outward whorls and layered chambers shattered, until only a spiraled core remains. 

April 20 - Rialto Beach 

Voices still speak. How much of ourselves do we construct from the gaze of the other? We evaluate ourselves in terms of those we love, like and even casually know. And I wonder, isolated here on the beach: am I like the cafe proprietor in Sartre's Nausea? When his cafe empties, his head empties too. It's not easy to escape the web of other's views of oneself. I have been performing a role in a play, Scot Casey, for so long that I have forgotten who I am. And I'm finding it difficult to separate myself from the web, like a costume or a uniform that has molded into my skin. I try to pull the mask off and all can feel is my face. Do I have to take a knife and peel the skin from my skull? And once I am out of the costume and free of the mask, far away from any other's gaze, then who will I be?

April 20 - The Fire
Mora Campground, WA

Visions in the Fire. Voices of flame. This incandescent mirror. I drink a bottle of wine and listen to everyone I ever loved burn in the flames. 

We are all like this in the world. A legend tells how once Nârada said to Krishna, "Lord, show me Maya." A few days passed away, and Krishna asked Narada to make a trip with him towards a desert, and after walking for several miles, Krishna said, "Narada, I am thirsty; can you fetch some water for me?" "I will go at once, sir, and get you water." 

So Narada went. At a little distance there was a village; he entered the village in search of water and knocked at a door, which was opened by a most beautiful young girl. At the sight of her he immediately forgot that his Master was waiting for water, perhaps dying for the want of it. He forgot everything and began to talk with the girl. All that day he did not return to his Master. 

The next day, he was again at the house, talking to the girl. That talk ripened into love; he asked the father for the daughter, and they were married and lived there and had children. 

Thus twelve years passed. His father-in-law died, he inherited his property. He lived, as he seemed to think, a very happy life with his wife and children, his fields and his cattle and so forth. 

Then came a flood. One night the river rose until it overflowed its banks and flooded the whole village. Houses fell, men and animals were swept away and drowned, and everything was floating in the rush of the stream. Narada had to escape. With one hand be held his wife, and with the other two of his children; another child was on his shoulders, and he was trying to ford this tremendous flood. After a few steps he found the current was too strong, and the child on his shoulders fell and was borne away. A cry of despair came from Narada. In trying to save that child, he lost his grasp upon one of the others, and it also was lost. At last his wife, whom he clasped with all his might, was torn away by the current, and he was thrown on the bank, weeping and wailing in bitter lamentation. 

Behind him there came a gentle voice, "My child, where is the water? You went to fetch a pitcher of water, and I am waiting for you; you have been gone for quite half an hour." "Half an hour! " Narada exclaimed. Twelve whole years had passed through his mind, and all these scenes had happened in half an hour! And this is Maya. 

I have often imagined the Eternal Recurrence of Vivekananda's Taking the Water Back to the God. You turn your back upon the beautiful girl, the love of your life, the possibilities of family, children, lifelong happiness. You find the water. As you are filling the container, you see a young child drowning. You turn away resolute,  set out on the path back to the God. All of your friends are calling to you to join them in times of joy, they offer to share all of their water with you. You continue on the path back to the God. Your friends and family call out for you to help them in times of need, to give them a tiny sip of water. You continue on the path back to the God. You encounter a man who offers you gold and jewels for a single drink of water. You continue on the path back to the god. Another offers power. You continue on the path back to the God. Your mother is there in the path before you. She is on fire. You can end her suffering by throwing the water upon her. You continue on your way. 

To ask the God such a question is to invite a terrible answer, a duty so horrible that it annihilates what it means to be human. Is the illusion, the dream, worth such an answer? Is there any life worth living after delivering the water back to the god? 

These thoughts are bodied forth and given substance from the night and the fire, the face of god, my mother, sister, ex-wife, lovers, friends, staring at me from out the burning chambers of my own heart, as the entirety of my internal world seems there staged upon the split blocks of wood fired before me. A cathedral like interior pulsing in the core from which they all speak to me in soliloquies of profound pain, blue coal eyes and yellow flame hair, red ember mouth and tongue. There is no turning away. Around me is black night. I sit there silent witness to my own sorrowful tragedy until the fire has transformed all into ash and the cold night covers me completely. 

April 21 - James and Little James Island
Quillayute River, WA

I wake up cold, hungover and sore, unused to sleeping on the ground and living in the elements. I rekindle the fire for warmth. Make coffee and breakfast on power bars. Then I remove everything from the Jeep and re-pack, taking inventory and organizing. 

About mid-afternoon, I load up my small pack and head down to Rialto for the day. The way leads along the Quillayute river. In the distance, just beyond the mouth are James and Little James - Akalat Island. It's a beautiful day with good light. 

April 21 - Dead Trees
Rialto Beach, WA

April 21 - Trees
Rialto Beach, WA

April 21 - "By-the-wind sailors" or Velella velella
Rialto Beach, WA

Cnidarians have two body forms: the umbrella-shaped, tentacle-trailing “medusa”, your classic jellyfish; and “polyps” such as seas anemonies that typically live attached to the seabed. Velella is a colony of specialised individual polyps, much like their fellow sailors the Portuguese Man o' War. Instead of living attached to rocks on the seabed, the water surface has become its substrate.

The by-the-wind sailor’s body is a flat oval disk 6-7 cm in diameter containing a series of air-filled chambers that provide buoyancy. Below hangs a central mouth surrounded by specialised reproductive bodies that produce tiny medusae, little “jellyfish”, and stinging tentacles – which are harmless to humans.

Projecting vertically up is a stiff translucent triangular vane made of chitin, a substance derived from glucose that is also used in crab and insect skeletons or squid beaks. This vane acts like a small sail. Interestingly, the sail runs diagonally across the top of the float, so that the individual sails at a 45 degree angle to the prevailing wind, just like a sailing boat.

Another striking feature is the bright blue colour, which is thought to serve as camouflage and/or protection from the sun’s rays. Animals that wash up on the beach dry up and become bleached white within a day or two.

Velella velella use their stinging tentacles to capture and feed on small fish larvae and zooplankton – microscopic animals that drift in the sea. But this is not their only source of food. If you look closely, you will also see a golden-brown colour inside the tissues which are zooxanthellae – symbiotic photosynthetic microalgae – that provide the host animal an additional source of nutrition.

By-the-wind sailor is a very common open ocean organism, living in warm to warm-temperate waters throughout the world’s oceans. It is thought that there is a difference in preferred sailing direction in the northern and southern hemispheres, and on the eastern and western shores of oceans, but this has been hard to prove.

April 21 - Beach 
Rialto Beach, WA

April 21 - Hole in the Wall - 7:55 pm
Rialto Beach, WA

The Hole in the Wall is a natural rock formation at the northern end of this section of Rialto Beach. At low tide, you can find a path through rocky tide pools and pass through it. I walked north along the stony beach, admiring the Chinese Landscape aspects of the Sea Stacks, massive timbers of the driftwood and various dead creatures that had washed up on the shore. I passed only one other person - heading the other way. We did not acknowledge each other. 

As I made my over the volcanic cliff towards the Hole in the Wall, I nearly slipped a couple of times on the rocks. I mentally checked myself to be careful and became acutely aware that if anything happened to me, it was unlikely I would find any assistance close by. I cautiously made my way through the opening. Then took a few photos through the formation. As I was walking back through, I paused just under the cliff, thinking to take another photo of the Sea Stack just to the South. 

Suddenly there came a huge crack as if a gun had gone off nearby and a sharp pain shocked my left leg. I jumped, startled and nearly fell down upon the slippery rocks. In the next instant, I realized a large rock had fallen from just above where I was standing. It had shattered on the rocks next to me and ricocheted a large fragment into my leg. I looked around to see if anyone was above me or anywhere around. I was alone. My leg was only bruised. I realized if I had been standing only a couple of feet back, the rock would've hit me on the head. I don't know that it would've killed me, but it would've been an ugly thing. 

I noticed the tide coming in fast, surf washing over rocks I had just stood upon. I carefully scrambled out from underneath the tons of rock overhead. My leg was sore and worried me for a few minutes, but it was fine. I reached the safety of the beach, stood still a while, looking back. I imagined the rock hitting me on the head, knocking me out and the advancing tide coming in to shred me against the rocks then pull me back into the sea where I would be surely drowned. The next morning, the ocean would return me to the rocky shore where I would be hidden amongst the rocks, gulls pecking out my eyes and crabs inhabiting my mouth. After a time, perhaps the sea would pull me back down, feeding fish and sinking me deeper and deeper until I lay undreaming on its utmost bones. A sea-change. Pearls for eyes. More likely, a bloated eyeless carcass wrapped in bull kelp mistaken for morning hikers for a small beached whale or pale walrus. 

I had a meditative walk back to Mora Campground. No one knew exactly where I was. I had promised no one that I would call on a particular schedule. I'm sure after a few weeks, my sister would've expressed alarm. But for the immediate future, my safety was only my concern. There was no one out here to cover my back. If I fell upon the stone or a stone fell upon me, then there was no one to turn to. I was alone. It hit my thinking as sharply as that fragment of stone did my leg. I made my way back to camp with no net walking upon the uncaring spine of a world red in tooth and claw and stone. 

April 21 - Sea Stacks
Rialto Beach, WA

April 21 - Water Flow Down Beach
Rialto Beach, WA

April 22 - Road
Hoh Rainforest Road, WA

I headed inland - about 45 miles - to the Hoh Rainforest. The weather was good with only occasional rain. The road into the Rainforest overarched with moss covered trees. The light turns vermillion. There's an odd sentient presence of fertility, an oozing industry of green. I imagined laying myself down upon the mosses and ferns and being soon covered in a semi-benevolent verdure. 

Along the way, I found an isolated marker which commemorated the members of the Russian schooner, Nikolai, which was marooned in November of 1808 at the mouth of the Quillayute River, precisely where I had spent the previous night. Of particular interest to me was the mention of Anna Bulygina, the 18 year old wife of the expedition commander. Along with several of the others, she was taken hostage by members the Hoh Nation. 

The Russian-American Company (RAC) was formed in 1799 as a quasi-governmental monopoly to control the North American fur trade and rule the Russian colony in Alaska. Within a decade, the company managers began to expand their operations down the Pacific coast from their headquarters at New Arckhangel (present-day Sitka, Alaska).  

In 1808 the Russian schooner Sv. Nikolai (St. Nicholas), owned by the Russian-American Company, sailed from New Arkhangel to explore Vancouver Island and then the Washington/Oregon coast to the south. The schooner carried 22 people, including five men and two women who are identified as Aleut from Kodiak Island. Also on board is the wife of the navigator (who served as the schooner’s captain). The schooner was to barter with Natives for sea otter pelts and to discover a site for a permanent Russian post in the Oregon country. However, the ship was driven ashore on a sandy beach near the mouth of the Quilayute River near the present-day town of La Push, Washington on the present Quileute Indian Reservation.

After salvaging part of their cargo, the Russians clashed with the Quileute, abandoned most of their supplies, and fled south into Hoh country. Timofei Tarakanov, one of the Russians on the ship, would later describe their encounter with the Quileute this way:

“We killed three of the enemy, one of who they dragged away. How many we wounded I do not know. As spoils we acquired a large number of spears, raincoats, hats, and other things left at the scene of the battle.”

Their initial encounter with the Hoh was somewhat friendly. However, it was soon evident that the Hoh wanted to capture the group to sell as slaves to other coastal Indians. In a brief encounter, two men and two women, including the Russian wife of the party’s leader, were captured by the Hoh. The rest of the Russians and Aleut fled toward the interior to escape the coastal Indians.

Away from the coast, they spent a miserable winter struggling to avoid starvation. On a number of occasions, they plundered native camps, occasionally fighting with small groups of natives. They vainly sought some way they might be rescued.

The following year, the Russians and Aleut returned to the coast hoping that they would find some way of being rescued. They found that the wife of their leader had been sold by the Hoh to the Makah. They actually made contact with her and found that she was fairly comfortable and content. When she found that they were planning a raid to rescue her, she rejected the idea. Instead, she urged the Russians to surrender to her captors. Timofei Tarakanov reports it this way:

“In horror, distress, and anger, we heard her say firmly that she was satisfied with her condition, did not want to join us, and that she advised us to surrender ourselves to this people.”

A few of the Russians surrendered to the Makah and the rest were captured by the Hoh and the Quileute.

In 1810, an American captain sailing for the Russian-American Company paid a large ransom to the Makah to rescue thirteen of the survivors from the shipwreck of the Sv. Nickolei. Another American captain purchased one or two more survivors from the Indians in the Columbia River area. The wife of the Russian leader died before she could be ransomed and at least one Russian is reported to have gone native.

Salient phrase:

headquarters at New Arckhangel
Also on board is the wife of the navigator
As spoils we acquired a large number 
of spears, raincoats, hats
capture the group to sell as slaves
they spent a miserable winter
In horror, distress, and anger, 
we heard her say firmly 
that she was satisfied with her condition
The wife of the Russian leader 
died before she could be ransomed 
and at least one Russian 
is reported to have gone native

A few illustrations from The Wreck of the Sv. Nikolai edited by Kenneth N. Owens, Alton S. Donnelly

By the time of the St. Nikolai expedition, the native people of this country had already gained among Europeans a reputation for their bellicosity and fierce courage. The Quileute and Hoh native to the territory drained by the Quillayute and Hoh rivers, were closely related; members of the Chimakum linguistic family they had once formed a single ethnographic community, and their social ties remained close. These people lived in small settlements along the rivers and larger creeks, with their largest communities located on the coast at the mouths of the rivers. Their most abundant food was salmon but they also ate quantities of smelt, cod, halibut, steelhead, and many varieties of shelllish. Their plant foods included fern roots, camas, and at least a dozen different kinds of berries that grew along the streams. They were notable hunters, taking seals, sea lions, and sea otters on the ocean, and on land such animals as elk black bear, deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats from the forest and interior mountain areas


John Jewett’s description of this man, supposed by the evidence of Tarakanov’s narrative, gives rise to an additional suggestion. It is possible, even likely, that Yutramaki or Machee Ulatillah was the son of an earlier European visitor to coast. His light skin color, his great curiosity about the Europeans and their ways, his interest In their languages and customs the European manner of dress that he affected and his eagerness to help the stranded or captured Europeans return to their home land; all these characteristics suggest strongly that Yutramaki, like no other Makah or Nootka person of the era, felt a deep and genuine concern for these foreigners. It was a concern that might well have been motivated by a consciousness of his own European paternity. His approximate age, if Jewett was a good judge, dates his birth to the period of earliest European exploration along these shores. 


After Cook’s voyage, English trading ships began to arrive on the Northwest Coast in 1785 and 1786, coming from Canton to enter the sea otter trade. One of the first ships to reach Nootka Sound was the Captain Cook, Henry Laurie master, a voyage of interest because Laurie left on shore his ship's surgeon. This person, an Irishman, was quite ill when the ship came to Nootka in June of 1786. He begged permission to remain behind, either to die or recuperate. Captain Laurie permitted him to stay making him the first European sojourner at Nootka Sound. The name of this man was John McKay or MacCay or McKey.

Not only did McKay recover, we know from various accounts that he went thoroughly native, took a wife, and became for one season a respected guest among the Nootka people. In August 1787, when opportunity allowed he decided to leave aboard the Imperial Eagle. Although john Meares claimed to have seen the journal McKay kept during his stay at Nootka, that valuable document and McKay himself disappeared from view when the Imperial Eagle returned to Canton in November.

Although skeptics will not find the case established beyond all reasonable doubt it is certainly possible that Yutramaki or Machee Ulatillah was the son of john McKay and his native wife. In Cook's time the Nootka had proved themselves little inclined to promote the union of their women with strangers. McKay's wife may well have been a Captive living among the Nootka, either a Makai or from some other people. If a Makah, we might suppose she then returned home to raise the child left her by McKay. An alien paternity would have been no barrier to this son's attainment of high status among the Makah since these people recognized the inheritance of rank through the maternal line. The similarity in names the personal details, and many of the circumstances urge such a conclusion. If so, Jewett estimated his age wrong by some ten or twelve years - the strongest evidence against this conclusion. But Jewett was young and inexperienced himself. He could have been wrong about the man’s age.


Salient Phrase:

They were notable hunters, 
taking seals, sea lions, and sea otters on the ocean, 
and on land such animals as elk black bear, deer, bighorn sheep, 
and mountain goats from the forest and interior mountain areas
All these characteristics suggest strongly that Yutramaki, 
like no other Makah or Nootka person of the era, 
felt a deep and genuine concern for these foreigners.
He went thoroughly native, took a wife, 
and became for one season 
a respected guest among the Nootka people.
A Captive living among the Nootka


Destruction Island (also known historically as Green Island is a 30-acre (12 ha) island located approximately 3.5 miles (6 km) off the Washington coast. Home to seabirds, shorebirds, and marine mammals, it is part of the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge.

The Hoh Indians used to frequent Destruction Island to capture rhinoceros auklets. In recent years the population of rhinoceros auklet have been in decline as a result of habitat loss and eagle predation due to the presence of non-native European rabbits.

Destruction Island was used as an anchorage by Spanish ships in 1775. A crew of seven men was sent to the mainland to procure supplies of wood and water, but was massacred by the local Indians, leading naval lieutenant Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra to name it the Isla de Dolores (the Island of Sorrows). Twelve years later, Captain Charles William Barkley, an independent English fur trader, arrived in the ship Imperial Eagle, and sent a party ashore from the island to a similar fate. He named the river where the second massacre took place the Destruction River. Captain George Vancouver later transferred the name to the Isla de Dolores when the river was given its Indian name, the Hoh River.

Three shipwrecks occurred at the island in 1889: Cassanora Adams, Port Gordon, and Wide West. The 94 foot (29 m) Destruction Island Lighthouse was built on Destruction Island in 1888-91. A US Coast Guard detachment operated the lighthouse from 1939 to the early 1970s. The light was automated in 1968, before it was shut off for good in April 2008. The island itself is accessible only by boat.  - Wikipedia: Destruction Island

Salient Phrase:

Destruction Island 
to capture rhinoceros auklets
Isla de Dolores 
The Island of Sorrows
Captain Charles William Barkley
He named the river 
where the second massacre took place 
the Destruction River
the Hoh River
Destruction Island Lighthouse
The island itself is accessible only by boat


The rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) is a seabird and a close relative of the puffins. It is the only extant species of the genus Cerorhinca. Given its close relationship with the puffins, the common name rhinoceros puffin has been proposed for the species.[2]

It ranges widely across the North Pacific, feeding on small fish and nesting in colonies. Its name is derived from a horn-like extension of the beak (the anatomic term for this extension is the rhamphotheca). This horn is only present in breeding adults, and like the elaborate sheath on the bill of puffins is shed every year.

The rhinoceros auklet (also known as the rhino auklet, horn-billed puffin, or unicorn puffin), is a medium-sized auk with a large, strong, orange/brown bill (with the 'horn' protruding from it). The plumage is dark on top and paler below; breeding adults (both male and female) possess white plumes above the eyes and behind the bill. Males are slightly larger than females (about 10% in mass). - Wikipedia: Rhinoceros auklet

April 22 - Tree
Hoh Rainforest, WA

Origin of the Hoh Tribe

The Hoh River (chalak’At’sit, meaning “the southern river”). The river itself is focal in Hoh tribal identity and folk-history and in traditional economic patterns.

The Hoh people were created along the river. Mythic narratives called kixI’ recall the origin of Those-Who-Live-on-the-Hoh (Chalat’, as the Hoh call themselves). According to these accounts, the ancestors of the tribe were “created by transformation” at the Time of Beginnings by K’wati the shape-shifting “Changer” who went around the world making things as they are today.

When K’wati got to the Hoh River he discovered that the inhabitants of the area were upside down people, who walked on their hands and handled their smelt dipnets clumsily with their feet. They weren’t very good at it, so they were famished and skinny. K’wati set them rightside up and showed them how to operate their nets with their hands. For that reason, Hoh elders still sometimes refer to themselves as p’ip’isodat’sili, which means “Upside down people”. After he had set the Hoh upright, then, the Transformer told the Ancestors, You shall use your feet to walk… Go and fish smelt. You shall catch much fish when you fish smelt.” Ever since then there is much smelt at Hoh. (Andrade, p. 85)

So important is the river in tribal lifeways that there is also, not surprisingly, a mythic narrative for the origin of the river. The Hoh River and the headlands along the beaches (Toleak Point and Hoh Head) were created by K’wati, as well. According to the story, K’wati killed the chief of the wolves, and then tried to escape from the other wolves, who were bent on revenge. The wily Transformer had grabbed his carved comb and a container of oil when he fled from his house, even though the wolves were in hot pursuit. According to the story, Then K’wati ran down the beach. Then the wolves followed K’wati intending to kill him. As soon as the wolves were about to overtake K’wati, he used what had been hanging in the house [i.e. the comb] and struck the ground with it on the beach. No sooner had K’wati finished striking the ground on the beach with his comb and there appeared a cliff. Of course, the wolves had to swim around the cliff. Then the wolves would be left far behind. Once more the wolves were about to overtake K’wati and he spilled on the ground what he was carrying [i.e. the oil], there appeared a river. Of course the wolves had to swim across the water. Then K’wati kept on going and as soon as they would be about to overtake him, he would … make cliffs and rivers. So, he went around the country and K’wati was never overtaken by the pursuing wolves. Ever since that time there are cliffs and rivers. [Andrade, p. 97-9] -

April 22 - Trees
Hoh Rainforest, WA


In 1808 a shipwreck at Rialto Beach (just north of La Push) played a role in discouraging Russian settlement south of Alaska. At the lime. world powers viewed the territory from San Francisco to Sitka as largely available for the taking. Britain and France were preoccupied with fighting each other in Europe. Spain had withdrawn from the Northwest to California.The United States dominated the maritime fur trunk but hm not yet formulated interest in the land beyond sending Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Pacific. Recognizing opportunity the Russian American Company was considering expansion. By hurrying they hoped to occupy the Columbia River mouth and other points outside of Spanish California  (and from 1812 to 1842 they did operate a trading fort and farm near Cape Mendocino, California).

Aleksandr Baranov, company manager at Sitka, dispatched two vessels south to trade for furs and explore. They were to rendezvous at Grays Harbor, but on November 1, winds drove the schooner SV Nikolai onto shore. Twelve Russians were on board. including the commander, Nikolai Isaakovich Bulygin, and his wife, Anna Petrovna; an Englishman who worked for the Russian American Company; Two Aleut women from Kodiak Island; and Five Aleut men. Nobody was injured. Indeed. they salvaged muskets, ammunition, and provisions from the vessel and huddled in tents made from the sails.

For a day or two the forlorn group stood off attacks by Quilutes, then they crossed the Quillayute River in a skiff rescued from the Nikolai and stuck out overland for Grays Harbor. At the next river mouth - the Hoh - natives captured four of the party, including Anna Petrovna. The others barely escaped, some of them critcally wounded. The skies turned gray, rain added discomfort to distress and the castaways decided to retreat upriver. By November 12, they had “not even a speck of food” according to supercargo Timofei Tarakanov’s report published serially in Russia 14 years later. During the next several weeks, however, they occasionally traded for salmon and berries, and at times stole them from fishing camps, conscientiously leaving beads and "fake pearls" as payment. At one point they tried to ransom Anna Petrovna, but her captors wanted muskets which Tarakanov - now the leader in place of me psychologically devastated Bulygin - felt it necessary to refuse.

On December 10, snow fell and the many decided to build a cabin "with sentry boxes al the corners for the guards.” They planned to live in it for the winier and resume their march in spring. Through trade and coercion, they acquired a canoe from natives and also built a vessel of their own, which is described in Quileut oral tradilion as an "unwieldy crazy boat." In February the Russians and Aleuts set out in these craft. 

At the mouth of the Hoh River they learned that their captured comrades "had fallen by lot to another tribe.” A week later Makahs led by “an elderly man dressed in European jacket, trousers, and a beaver hat" appeared on the south side of the Hoh and with them was Anna Petrovna. Her words smack "like a clap of thunder,” for she advised surrender, saying “it is better for me to die than to wander about with you in the forest, where we might fall into the hands of a cruel and barbarous people.” She insisted that the chief who held had treated her well and promised deliverance to a sailing ship when one appeared.

After deliberation Tarakanov, Bulygin, and three others surrendered and were taken north. The others tried to escape by boat, capsized and were captured. Over time, all of them were shifted from village to village as their chiefs moved or chose to get rid of captives, "sometimes by selling, sometime by exchanging us, or - because of kinship or friendship - giving us as gifts."

In August 1809, Anna Petrovna Bulygin died. Six months later her grief-stricken husband also died. As slaves, the two had been together at times, apart at other times. On May 6, 1810, a "double masted vessel came into view,” the Lydia commanded by Captain T. Brown, who sailed for the Russian American Company. The chief who held Tarakanov - and had held Anna - made good on his promise. The chief holding the Englishman John William finally released him for a payment of “five patterned blankets, 35 feet of woolen cloth, one locksmith’s file, two steel knives, one mirror, five packets of gunpowder, and the same quantity of small shot." Wild similar payments, Captain Brown ransomed 13 survivors of the Nikolai and on June 9, 1810, returned them to Sitka. Seven others had died. Two had been sold lo "distant people."

Baranov, learning at last the particulars of the Nikolai party’s fate, decided to forgo his plans for the Northwest Coast. He had lost strategic advantage for, during the last two years the Canadian North West Company had established trading posts on the upper Columbia, and the American Pacific Fur Company had begun trade at the mouth of the Columbia. Instead, Baranov turned attention to California and immediately sent Tarakanov there. 

- Exploring Washington's Past: A Road Guide to History By Ruth Kirk, Carmela Alexander

"After capture by the Makah, I was given to Machee Ulatillah, who had great power but was not a chief. Machee took good care of me, showing me the ways of hunting and how to capture food. For the first time in my life, I was treated as a woman. Bulygin, my husband, was a coward and a brute who had beat me for his own weakness. I was happy to never see him again in my life. But then he and the rest of the foul party arrive at the mouth of the Hoh. Machee Ulatillah went out to meet them with me. He told me to say they should not fight. If they fought, they would die. But to come live as slaves until a ship arrived. He would then ransom them to the ship's captain. They reluctantly agreed. Tarakanov, Bulygin and some other beasts came over. Machee Ulatillah knew of my suffering at the hand of Bulygin. That night, he cut out Bulygin's tongue, then cut his sex off and told me to shove it in Bulygin's mouth. He forced Bulygin to sit upon a sharpened stake and tied his arms and legs tightly. A great horned stag's head was brought forth, still warm and dripping blood, this was hollowed out until it fit over Bulygin's head. He was left in this manner until he died."

- An Oral Account of Anna Petrovna of the SV Nikolai, 1809

After too many days, Anna approaches Bulygin impaled upon the stake.
The wretched creature that was once her husband stirs.
Anna? Anna! O Anna! Please why? she imagines his words. 
Bulygin, quiet now. 
She removes the stag's head. His face is a destruction, skin crawling with maggots. Eyes burrowed and blasted.
O Anna why? O Anna. Gurgles in his throat. 
Quiet you. You must answer question for me now. 
O Anna. O Anna. 
Bulygin is delirious from his suffering. 
She slides close to the disgusting disfiguration of his face. 
Bulygin, tell me about God. 
There is a rasp, a choking gurgle. 
Anna wonders if Bulygin has suddenly died.
Perhaps he is laughing. 
God? she imagines him asking. 
Yes, tell me about God. 
His mouth is a wreck, his words torn open.
There is no God, he tells her. 
I know that, you fool, she spits at him. Tell me where God went.
Labored breaths out mostly.
Yes, where did God go? I mean to follow.
O Anna, my love, my wife. Why? Help me, Anna, help me. This is God. 
She is still as stone now. 
Bulygin convulses anew. 
She replaces the rotting stag's head hard down over his face. 
His moans become the stag's death cry.
She closes her eyes and reaches up for the Pulse. 
Her knife is quick. Machee Ulatillah has taught her well. 
Bulygin slumps dead. 
The dead black eyes of the stag appraise her. 
She rises defiant. Screams to the star filled sky. 
I will find you. You cannot hide from me. 
The black dead eyes stare straight into the night. 

Machee Ulatillah 
standing beside
the Song of the Hoh River
watches the woman 
converse with the corpse of her husband
three days dead now. 

April 22 - Campsite Beside the Hoh River
Hoh Rainforest, WA

A beautiful camp next to the Hoh River. All the voices somewhat quieter. Sitting beside the river for hours watching the light fade from the world. Learning to talk to myself again. In my own voice. What is your job? To exist within the beauty of the world. That's enough for now. It feels like a salve on the wound of my mind. 

April 23 - Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment, WA

A strange place, haunted by absence. Perhaps it's just me, externalizing my interior world wherever I travel. I climb the heights to look out over the Graveyard of the Pacific. There is a confusion to what I am looking at or what I am looking for. Is that the Columbia River of the Ocean? How would one cross the bar? Tennyson comes to mind:

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place 
      The flood may bear me far

The Lighthouses illuminating shores, warning ghosts of treacherous waters, reef and shoal. Mystery in dark waters. I walk down the long deserted beach, strange structure composed of driftwood and stone, erect my own totems to stand before the death of the sun. 

April 23 - Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment, WA

April 23 - Beach
Cape Disappointment, WA

April 23 - Beach
Cape Disappointment, WA

Cape Disappointment is a large headland forming the northern portion of the mouth of the Columbia River, as it opens to the Pacific Ocean. Most members of the Corps of Discovery arrived in this area where they were first able to glimpse the ocean on November 15, 1805, and set up a base camp near Chinook Point. However, Lewis and a small party of men had set out ahead of the rest of the group the day before and began scouting for a favorable site for a winter encampment. On November 17th, Lewis and his party returned from the area of Cape Disappointment and located Clark's base camp. Lewis was followed by several Chinook Indians with "roots mats &c. to Sell" and "the principal chief of the Chinnooks & his family came up to See us this evening" (DeVoto 1997, 286). Clark then "directed all the men who wished to see more of the main Ocian to prepare themselves to Set out with me early on tomorrow morning" (286). This second group proceeded to Cape Disappointment where Clark, seeing Lewis's name carved in a tree, carved his own name and the date into the same trunk. 


I drive South on 101 towards Astoria, cross the Columbia River in the rain, and enter into Oregon. The rain creates Chinese landscapes along the highway. Frustrating traffic the closer I get to Portland. I opt to bypass the city. Sick of urbanity, the multitude of cars and people, of crowded space. I place a call to Mt. Angel Abbey on the off chance there is a room for the night. But no luck. Booked full. I drive on through hellish traffic to Salem, grateful to get off of Interstate-5 and head down 22 West. Back to Beauty. But every campsite in the Willamette National Forest is closed for winter. I drive into Sisters and find a place to sleep amidst the rumbling herds of RVs in the City Park. 

I sleep in the car. Strange lights in my windows from passing cars. Dreams of a gang of imbeciles circling my car with torches. Cars driving down the highway, distorted headlights through the trees. I am increasingly hungry for isolation and solitude. I feel wolfish and irritable. Thoughts of blood. Everyone's an enemy. The world is full of sin. The local coffeehouse is right out of an amusement park. Filled with tourists, fake families and fake signs all pointing to a fake life in funtown. Time to leave. Head out towards Bend. 

Along the way, I learn another friend is dying. In hospice. I drive down the isolated highway where every car irritates me. It begins to snow. At Bend, I turn down Highway 97 towards Diamond Lake. 

April 25 - Sisters, Oregon

April 25 - Sporting Goods / Liquor Store
Deschutes National Forest, Crescent, Oregon

April 25 - Diamond Lake
Umpqua National Forest, OR

In darkness, horrors of the imagination. This camp deserted but for a few others. Near the restrooms, several trucks and RVs. Stopping to stare at me as I drove by looking for an isolated place to camp. Further on around the lake, a few backpacker's tents. There are dark cloudy swarms of mosquito and gnat. The snow soon drives them away. 

After a drive around the sites, seeing I had plenty of options for camping and there was nothing to occupy my time at Diamond Lake, I decided to drive to Crater Lake, to see how far I could get, if even, to see the Lake itself. I could see by the map that Crater Lake was not far as the crow flies, but a long ways around by car. 

April 25 - Diamond Lake
Umpqua National Forest, OR

The North Entrance was still closed for the winter, so I drove west down the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway to the Dalles-California Highway and turned south until I got to 422 to make the cut-over to the road to Crater Lake National Park. My thinking was that I could either move on further south after Crater Lake or head back to Diamond Lake for the night. 

It was about an hour and a half up to the entrance of Crater Lake. 

April 25 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

April 25 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

As one Klamath individual noted, Crater Lake was a particularly dangerous site for the spirit quest. (1) Gaining a vision of the supernatural beings residing in the lake was a major goal of that quest (Spencer 1952b:222). The seeker would often swim at night, underwater, to encounter the spirits lurking in the depths (Spier 1930:98). Leslie Spier commented regarding the father of one of his consultants, "having lost a child, he went swimming in Crater lake; before evening he had become a shaman" (Spier 1930:96). The quest for such spirits required courage and resolution:

"He must not be frightened even if he sees something moving under the water. prays before diving, "I want to be a shaman. Give me power. Catch me. I need the power." (Spier 1930:96)

A fuller account of the quest for spirit power is recorded in a manuscript by Jeremiah Curtin:

"Indians used to believe. Doctors said "we begin to be doctors by swimming and camping on top the mountains where there is a pond of lake and breaking willows and piling rocks on top the mountains and swimming in the lake." On ***** Mountain they used to camp. And at Crater Lake they used to say they got to the water and swam. And after swimming and camping and keeping awake all night piling rocks and breaking up twigs and tying them together till daylight [then] they would sleep. They sit down and slept, then they would dream. And whatever they dreamed of, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear or Wolf, Coyote, Skunk or all kinds of birds. Whatever they dreamed of became their medicine and they doctored with it and snakes, fishes[,] everything became their medicine." (Curtin, n.d.) (2)

An elderly Klamath woman recounted in the late 1940s her experience of seeing a spirit being on the lake:

"When I was young, I went up to Crater Lake with a woman I knew. She tied my eyes and led my horse. ... Then she said, "Untie your eyes," and I nearly fell off the horse. I saw a man standing on the water far away, just like in the Bible. He scared me so, I don't know who that was, but I like to think of that man now." (Spencer 1952b:222)

In other Klamath accounts the floor of the lake contains a mythical world:

"People were stolen and taken down into Crater lake by beings there. Some say they have found no water in the lake. Instead there were rocks as big as trees and deep tunnels in the bottom. There are animals, snakes, and a sort of people who live at (or in) the ocean." (Spier 1930:98)

Salent phrase:

dangerous site for the spirit quest
to encounter the spirits lurking in the depths
even if he sees something moving under the water
Grizzly Bear, Black Bear or Wolf, Coyote, Skunk or all kinds of birds
everything became their medicine
I saw a man standing on the water
There are animals, snakes, and a sort of people who live in the ocean

April 25 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

Heavy snow all around Crater Lake. A few Asian families. Snowstorm coming in from the West. I head back concerned I might get snowed in. A layer of snow covers the highways all the way back. 

Once back at Diamond Lake, I arrange the back of the Jeep so I can stretch out and sleep. Snow still coming down. I've got plenty of food. Books. Full tank of gas. Warm sleeping bags. If I get snowed in for a few days, I'll be fine. I read Doer's poetic All The Light We Cannot See late into the night. 

I wake up to a shotgun blast. Seems to have come from down where the backpackers had their tent. It's no longer snowing but it's pitch black. There's two more shotgun blasts, shock flashes of light through the trees. Then I hear the group camping up by the restrooms laughing and hollering. A loud truck starts, the driver revving up the engine, rumbling the quiet of the lake. I watch as the truck drives slowly around the loop. Once he gets to my car, he stops, engine thumping heavily. There's someone coming from the camp with a spotlight, walking through the trees toward the jeep. The spotlight cuts out. The truck moves slowly on. I imagine a bunch of drunk country folk, come out to the lake to raise hell. Drinking and smoking crack with no worries, getting wild in the night, head down to the backpacker's tent with a shotgun and laughingly blow holes through the tent, killing the couple inside. Now come around to the only other person out there: me. Truck drives by to check me out. Another walking up from the woods. Shotguns against the windows. Howling like mad dogs as they fire away into the interior where I sit. I wait. Ready to leap out, to yell, to attack with my knife. The truck rumbles back from the distance. I hear chuckling laughter and can see shapes moving around a fire. The truck's lights scan through the trees, then cut off, parked again at their camp. My mind imagines a thousand different horrible scenarios, blood and fire and pain and torture. The horrid and banal evil that all men do. 

In the morning, I am up early. It's freezing cold. I start the jeep and let the engine run until the heater is blowing hot. I climb out of the back to stretch and get fresh air. Look to the camp of killers. All asleep. Look down to the backpacker's site. Can't see anything. I climb back inside and sleep restfully. 

I wake up a few hours later. Arrange the car for traveling. Don't want to remain here any longer. I loop around past the Killer's Camp. It's a couple of families, teen aged kids, moms, dads. They wave as I roll past. The backpackers have a fire going. Standing around trying to get warm. No death, no murder, just me and my demons. 

Decide to drive over to the lodge, see if there's any breakfast. It's all off-season desolation. Nothing worth staying around for. I move on. Further south. 

I head back to Crater Lake, hoping for better weather for photographs. It's about the same. Something there I can't seem to capture. I have an overpriced National Park cafeteria breakfast at the Lodge. Watch the people around me. Every one is on vacation. Has a vacation face, vacation smile. 

But what am I doing?

April 26 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

Photographers don’t seem to have much luck at Crater Lake, because probably one of the most bizarre and baffling unexplained disappearances of the lake is that of a Virginia based photographer by the name of Charles McCullar in 1975. In 1974, Charles embarked on an adventurous hitchhiking and bus tour of the country, which he hoped to take a photographic journal of. January of 1975 found Charles staying at the home of a friend in Oregon for a few weeks, during which time he decided to take the opportunity to go take some winter time photos of Crater Lake. It seemed like a normal thing for the intrepid adventurer and photographer to do, so his friend thought nothing of it when Charles said he would be back in a few days before heading into the wilderness. It would be the last time anyone would see him alive.

When over a week passed and there was still no sign of Charles, a search was launched of the wilderness where he was known to have set up camp, which rapidly grew to involve the FBI, yet efforts were hampered by immense drifts of snow which were at times over 12 feet deep. The search included Charles’ own father, who flew out to spend throughout the summer aiding in search efforts and camping out on the shore of the lake. Even after the snows melted, not a single trace of the missing man was turned up during this time, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of authorities and Charles’ father, and it seemed as if the forest had just swallowed him up. It was not until the following year, in October of 1976, that a pair of hikers found a battered, torn up backpack down in a remote canyon located a full 12 miles from where Charles had been camped out, which they brought to a ranger’s office. Within a side pocket of the backpack was found a set of keys belonging to a Volkswagen, which had been the type of car that Charles had owned. Sensing that a break in the cold case had been found, Rangers Larry Smith and Marion Jack ran a comparison with a photocopy of Charles McCullar’s actual car key and found it was a perfect match. A patrol was immediately sent out on horseback to the area where the backpack had been found and it was not long before human remains were found near Bybee Creek, and although it seemed like the final piece of the puzzling disappearance, things would only get stranger when the body was examined.

There upon a log was a pair of jeans that seemed to be in remarkably good condition for how long they had been out there in the elements, but there was no shirt, coat, or boots anywhere too be seen. Within the socks that poked out from the jean legs were found to be broken off toe bones and the jeans themselves contained nothing but some pieces of snapped off shin bones. Adding to the weirdness was the fact that the belt on the jeans had been undone and the buttons opened, as if he at some point had decided to take them off in the frigid cold. Besides the toe and shin bones, the rest of the body was simply gone, and one ranger described it as if the man had simply melted away. Lying a full 12 feet away from this bizarre sight was the crown of a skull and some tiny fragments of bone. A meticulous, thorough search of the surroundings turned up no further trace of Charles’ remains, and the majority of his body remained missing, as did all of his clothing except those jeans. Additionally, none of Charles’ other personal belongings such as his wallet and camera were ever found either. It remains a mystery as to how he could have walked out 12 miles from his camp in deep snowdrifts, what happened to the rest of him, and how his body came to be in such a weird state. Despite all of this, authorities would deem it a case of death by natural causes, with the body having been ravaged by wildlife after death.

Salient phrase:

Photographers don’t seem to have much luck at Crater Lake
it seemed as if the forest had just swallowed him up
human remains were found near Bybee Creek
Within the socks that poked out from the jean legs were found to be broken off toe bones 
and the jeans themselves contained nothing but some pieces of snapped off shin bones
the rest of the body was simply gone
Lying a full 12 feet away from this bizarre sight 
was the crown of a skull and some tiny fragments of bone
the body having been ravaged by wildlife after death

April 26 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

The Klamath hold the Lake sacred, believing it to be the crossroads of the Spirit of Above (Skell)—a spirit of peace and goodness—and the Spirit of Below (Llao)—a spirit of fire, darkness and terror.  The Klamath believe that a battle between these two created the Lake when after defeating the evil Llao, Skell collapsed the mountain on his portal to this world and covered it with clear water as a sign of everlasting peace.  Skell cast Llao’s limbs into the Lake and tricked the water animals, which were faithful to Llao, into devouring them.  But when the animals reached Llao’s head they recognized it as their master and would not touch it.  It can still be seen today as a lone, steep cinder cone rising from the Lake’s waters.  It’s known as Wizard Island, and Llao’s spirit is still said to make its home there.

In other words, the Klamath’s version of the Devil lives in Crater Lake.

For over 100 years a tree trunk has been mysteriously floating upright in Oregon's Crater Lake - and it's baffling everybody.

The 30ft long piece of ancient hemlock tree has become so much of a celebrity in the area over the decades it's known as The Old Man of the Lake.

The log was first reported on in 1902, the year Crater Lake was named a national park.

Geologist Joseph S. Diller recalled having spotted the wood six years previously.

Splintered and sun-bleached the Old Man, which is 2ft wide in diameter, floats 4ft above the water of the lake.

April 26 - Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park, OR

April 26 - Pinnacles
Crater Lake National Park, OR

Head south again. Down Highway 62 toward Fort Klamath. U-turn at the Pinnacles for a few photographs. At one point, I gave myself a purpose of stopping at National Parks and Monuments along the way. Looking over the map, after Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves National Monument was the most likely destination. 

But I question this purpose. It is more an artifice of aimlessness than anything. Always easier to tell others, I'm traveling across the country, stopping at National Parks along the way to bear witness to beauty and wonder. Instead of: I am haunted by an absence in the world. The absence of God. Everything I do is hollow. I stand upon no ground. Meaning is unsubstantial. All enterprises of great pith and moment are suspect. There is only Death. Life is an insubstantial pageant faded and fading, a pattern in the dust drawn by bones upon the stone, skies always darkening, the hard rain approaching. 

Out here all voices begin to fade. I am alone. Sitting at a table outside of Cave Junction. Not many people around. Listening to the appropriately named Sucker Creek whispering and laughing lowly as it erases through the land. This aimless wandering... where will it lead? This word "God" rises like an earthquake pulse from the savage ground of being. My flesh burns static blue - haunted by God - out here in this nominal wilderness just off the road last resort, listening like a prisoner in a cell for any sign, any station, twisting the knob of the radio as finely as I can, gradual increments of white noise static, searching for a station, for anything, some ancient signal from a dead star or fragment of music forever floating through the ether like a Flying Dutchman, echoes of meaning from that time before God abandoned this world. I run through the amplitudes and frequencies of hope and find nothing. 

I wear a red coat that my mother once wore, too large for her, but she must've liked the way it covered her, borrowed from her husband, lover, boyfriend in high-school, wrapped around and protected. It smells of her. An alchemy of perfume, hairspray, cigarette, body sweat, breath, dream. Right now, it's too much. I take it off, preferring to shiver in the cold. 

And you, my friend, you other who once spoke to me as my innermost thought, where is your self-soaked coat that I might wear on a cold night? It is gone. As are you. Yet I can imagine what you might tell me, that this pale white suit of flesh shivering now upon my bones once belonged to you also. 

April 26 - Camp at Country Hills "Resort"
Cave Junction, OR

April 27 - Bear Skull
Oregon Caves National Monument, OR

April 27 - Hell Mouth
Oregon Caves National Monument, OR

There is a guided tour of the caves. A small group assembles. The unregenerate tourist. The Ranger is a young girl who admits her newness and inexperience, working on her cave patter, reciting tired tour guide jokes. I am at the back, following the others at a distance. 

The young Ranger gives us a set of warnings and concerns. A woman in a wheelchair, who can walk short distances, sadly elects to remain behind. There is a raucous blonde woman there with her cuckold. She is constant litany of complaints and base humor. An Asian family whom I suspect speaks little English. A family loosely assembled. Gangled teenaged creatures. Wearing advertisements on their shirts.The Ranger warns us all to go to the bathroom before entering the cave. The tour is 90 minutes long, over 500 steps. Constant 44 degrees. 

We descend. I am thinking of Dante and Virgil, of abandoning hope. All dark caverns are fascinating to me. Walking though the rooms and chambers, I wish I alone had discovered it and had the vast underground palaces to myself. The presence of others is claustrophobic. I imagine a Sartrean version of the Inferno where suffering is other people,  all of us forever descending ever deeper, the chirping voice of the guide always in our ear, snever allowing us a moment of mental peace, imprisoned in a long line of shuffling souls, never allowed to stop, the close musky methane human odor mixing with burning ammonia and sulphureous dung. At regular intervals we come upon a maddened bear who wreaks havoc, shredding flesh and cracking bone. Swarms of bats descend to sink yellow syringe crusted fang into skin, infecting with all with rabid disease as they drink kittenish from our necks. We rise up again to continue the march ever downwards.

In a close chamber, near the deepest point, the Blond announces she has to pee. 

I know you warned us, she whines to the Ranger. But I thought I could hold it! 

The Ranger hands her a plastic bottle. 

Y'all turn around and don't look, she warns with an exhibitionist's grin. 

The cuckold holds her oversized plastic soda cup and florescent green placenta of a purse. I watch her with no shame as I would a dog defecating at the end of a leash. 

The Blonde flays back the polyester skin of her dirty white warm-ups revealing maggot white underbelly flesh as she lets loose her bladder into the bottle stuck tight as a lamprey between her legs. The donkey stream of urine resounds in the sanctum sanctorum of the enclosed space. The Asians are bright red. Teen aged homunculi giggle and cast furtive glances. The cuckold's lips are wet. 

O my God, I needed to pee so bad! says the Blonde. 

I look up. Draperies of stone. Cascades of stone solid marble membrane momentarily quiver to fleshy life. Above is us a sucking maw. The Hell Mouth. We are all upon the liminal verge of an unimaginable annihilation. This marble mouth waiting to suck us in and dissolve our being forever. Our pain stretched tight as a piano wire keening in harmony with the light of long dead stars. This pain, this momentary pain of being that is our life, our name and face, is nothing but a prelude to the endless suffering that awaits us above. 

The Blonde repacks the wormy sausage meat of her ass back in the casing of her clothes and holds out the splattered wet bottle of bright yellow urine to the Ranger. The queen has completed her toilet and each turd is placed upon a pillow to be planted in the garden with great ceremony under the bare branches of the dying yew tree. The Ranger chirps geographical curiosities through her revulsion, timidly placing the bottle in her new park service pack. 

We are at the deepest point. Now we ascend. 

April 27 - Writing on the Wall
Oregon Caves National Monument, OR

I contemplated spending time on the Oregon Coast. But the further south I traveled, the more I moved away from the grey and the drizzling rain, the more I escaped all the associations of Washington and the more I felt deep down that I was in a new place, a different world. After the Caves, I drove back to Cave Junction to 199 and headed south. Stopped in O'Brien to photograph an old police car. Posted some photos to Instagram. 

Here's an oddity. If I imagine my self, self, as an actor upon a stage, then who am I performing for? Who is the audience? The remains of my family, loves I once loved, loves I still do, close friends, friends old and new, acquaintances, people I admire and respect, the ghosts of the dead, those who hate me, enemies and a general mass of other people. They are all sitting out there in the audience watching me, evaluating my performance, some hoping for the best, happy with my success, disappointed with my failures, most sympathetic and indulgent, a fair number ambivalent but there watching with a casual judgement, a few actively rooting against me, taking joy in my sorrows, delighting in my comeuppance. I imagine them out there, well, inside of my head. Driving along, seeing something remarkable, thinking, so and so would like this. Stopping to take a picture. Other times photographing places and things in them as being somehow representative of my self. But with the thought, when "everyone" sees this photograph, they will smile because it seems perfectly suited to my character. We all have these audiences in our heads. The best of them, perhaps, have faces composed of mirrors through which we can see our selves more clearly - through the eyes of the other.

But of what of the solitary? The lone creature in a wilderness? What of the actor on the stage in an empty theater? Who is that actor now? Such are my thoughts as I drive down 199 into California. The Highway begins to twist through the evergreen hills, the sun is shining bright, air sweet, clouds white. Windows down, music playing, no where to go, everywhere to go, freedom like the fresh air, as much as I wanted to breathe and plenty plenty more. That actor suddenly losing himself in his role and simply being, not trying to be, not acting "as if," but just living, living simply and naturally responding to the world without thinking about it, a life as pure expression not clouded by overthinking, no longer playing out a myriad of scenarios in the mind, no longer wondering how the audience would respond to each, no longer riddled and handicapped by the idea of being and actor playing a role in a theater. There, driving down the ribbon of the California Highway in the California Sun, I am overwhelmed with the sudden joy of being a lone, free and off-stage, no longer acting, but being, living, wandering aimless and unburdened. 

I’d like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I’d like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars
I’d love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I’d give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of California stars

I’d like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars
They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass like friendly wine
So, I’d give this world just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

- Woody Guthrie

April 27 - Police 
O'Brien, OR

The first and most famous is the so-called "sentimental" theory of Goethe, leading poet of Germany, advanced in his Wilhelm Meister (1795). Coming from such an eminent source, every consideration is due this opinion. Following is a free translation from the German (IV, 3-13; V, 4-1 1):

"The time is out of joint; O cursed spite 
That I was ever born to set it right!"

"In these words, I presume, is to be discovered the the key to Hamlet's entire course of action. To me it is clear that Shakespeare attempted to disclose, in the present instance, the effects of a great deed laid upon a soul unequal to the performance of it. In this view the entire play seems composed, it appears to me. An oak-tree is planted in a costly vase, which should have borne only lovely flowers in its bosom; the roots spread, the vase is shattered. A supremely attractive, pure, noble and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which goes to constitute the hero, sinks beneath a burden which it neither can bear nor cast aside. All duties to him are holy, — this one too hard. That which is impossible is required of him, — not the inherently impossible, but the impossible to him. He twists and turns, and tortures himself; he advances and reacts; is ever reminded and self-reminding; and at the last all but does lose sight of his purpose, yet ever without restoring his peace of mind." 


The second of the celebrated subjective theories as to Hamlet's course of action in delaying revenge is the alleged "weakness of will" theory, advanced almost synchronously by Coleridge in England (in his Notes and Lectures upon Shakespeare) and by Schlegel in Germany (see Black's translation of Schlegel's Ueber dramatische Kunst und Litteratur) shortly after 1800. For convenience it is known either as the "weakness of will theory" or the Schlegel-Coleridge theory. Coleridge remarks in part: "In the healthy process of the mind, a balance is constantly maintained between the impressions from outward objects and the inward operations of the intellect; for if there be an overbalance in the contemplative faculty, man thereby becomes the creature of mere meditation, and loses his natural power of action.... In Hamlet ... we see a great, an almost enormous intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it." 

Schlegel finds the key to the play in an identical hypothesis and quotes the hero of the drama as evidence:

"And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought; 
And enterprises of great pith and moment, 
With this regard, their currents turn awry. 
And lose the name of action."

Further Schlegel declares that Hamlet does not believe in himself or anything else. "He loses himself in labyrinths of thought." The fatal objection to the Schlegel-Coleridge theory is that it detaches Hamlet from the drama considered as a whole, and attributes to him a personal defect of nature which may neither be justifiable nor fair to him. It it's unsafe to assume, as does Coleridge, that Shakespeare creates a character with a "faculty in morbid excess, and places himself, Shakespeare, thus mutilated or diseased, under given circumstances," Dare we assume that Hamlet, the magnificent, is mentally "mutilated or diseased?" 

Salient Phrase:

the effects of a great deed laid upon a soul 
unequal to the performance of it
All duties to him are holy,
this one too hard
is ever reminded and self-reminding
an almost enormous intellectual activity,
and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it
the pale cast of thought
He loses himself in labyrinths of thought

April 27 - Campsite
Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP, CA

There no one out here. I am alone. Once under the high cathedral columns of Redwoods, I am reminded of another voice. 

Again, as I have imagined myself as an actor upon a stage, exhausted from performing his role, no longer connected to his audience. I am merely going through the motions, reciting the same tired lines I have said a thousand thousand times, absorbed in silent interior monologues. I search the faces of the other actors, peering through the eye-holes of their masks, hoping to see other deeper eyes looking out. I wonder how I got involved in this sad drama. When did I agree to play this role of Scot Casey, to wear this mask that is my face, to speak these words so indicative of my character. I surreptitiously search for the Director in the wings while declaiming my lines. I peer out past the proscenium for some figure that appears to know what's going on. 

I wonder what would happen if I stepped off stage? What would the other actors think? Would the play stop? What would those in the audience think? Is there anyone that would stop me? 

These such thoughts and all the other thoughts of a world beyond the stage they give birth to have haunted me most of my life. And here I am in the final stretch of my time. What am I still doing upon the stage? I have come to believe the only life worth living is off-stage where I am playing no role, where no mask, no face, no name, where there is no audience, no other actors, no overarching play that I am to be responsible to. 

I walk through the labyrinthian Cathedrals of the Redwoods, the remaining old growth forests along the coast of California. Sequoia sempervirens. Tallest trees on earth. One of the oldest living organism on the planet - some 1200 to 2000 years old. My life, my drama, my thought-riddled mind, all just the lightning of a spark, lasting for not even the duration of a firefly's glow in comparison. 

But there is another voice here. Off-stage out here in the woods, some better angel of my nature - not conscience - but an other Self. Self out of which self is created. An abiding and transcendental presence. I once had the hubris and foolishness to place name upon it. But it is nameless. And no idol signifies it. All signs that point to it are suspect. But there are traces, ancient sign writ in a language before language, there carved in to the utmost ground of being itself, a path that seems no path so much of the world itself is it shaped. Unutterable but knowable. And while I cannot say if I am on it, I know with no doubling doubt when I am not on it. It leads into a darkness, an unknowable realm, it leads off all stages, indeed, no stage can ever get around it, it being the primal ground upon which all stand. 

Out of the darkness, I am reminded of another voice. There is no hearing, no thing to listen to. But I remember being spoken to. 

Happy in my good role as a prince with a bright future, playing my part and happy with all the other actors, so in love was I that I forgot I was even acting until the thunderous applause from the audience at the end of each act. So I performed childhood, so I represented the very soul of adolescence, so the first few scenes of a Young Man in America... until I head a voice, at first a whisper, from off-stage. I became an actor of two-minds, burdened with doubt, self-divided, a young man starving onstage, a ravenous wolf being fed richly within. I fumbled my lines. I no longer trusted the other actors. I was terrible: pulling them behind the scenery, placing my face against theirs, peering into the dark holes to see the fearful creature within. I broke the proscenium, ranting to the audience. The world was quickly bored by my self-indulgent tantrums. But I excused myself with the excuse that by constantly playing the fool who rudely awakens all the mechanicals from their dreams, I was performing a vital role. I believed myself brave and new, but like all human endeavors was only reducing myself to cliche. Abusing my new trick until it was a sad pantomime of a rabbit being pulled up again and again, a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard, myself soon shaking bones tufts of matted fur from threadbare hat. 

And here it was that I heard the voice again, persistent as a pulse from a distant star and perhaps just as dead.  And I persisted in my fool's folly further off-stage. And I created an Idol out of Bones, thinking it would help me to remember. And for many years, I wrote the same words and sang the same songs and thought the same thoughts all in a pagan worship of my Idol of Bones. And the spirit that once animated them faded like a fragrance from a dead flower. And only thing I could smell was the mouldering rot of the tomb. 

Then began post-humous existence. Then began suffering, death, suffering, insanity, suffering, old age, suffering endurance. I lost my sense of smell. I lost part of my hearing. I lost my sense of taste. The fires of my libido burned down to red coals. My resignation unto death a daily unloosening. Everything in this unloosening. Tight knots of thought and intention unravelling. And I not caring. And time moving ever swifter, memories once preserved in golden frames, now blurring 24 times a second, into an illusion of a life. 

It was only through the practice of intentional memory that I began to find any redemption. As if I were standing in the middle of rushing mountain stream, catching a fish, a piece of wood, a leaf, a stone, reflection of the moon, starlight out of the incessant flow of time and building a primitive altar on the shore. 

And there... here... now and everywhere, listening for the voice, that voice of distant longing, that voice out there in the Wilderness... that voice that called me forth... that voice that leads me on... always away from others... ever deeper into solitude and away from the world. 

I listen for the Other Voice now as an act of intentional memory. 

A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.

Creatures of stillness crowded from the bright
unbound forest, out of their lairs and nests;
and it was not from any dullness, not
from fear, that they were so quiet in themselves,

but from just listening. Bellow, roar, shriek
seemed small inside their hearts. And where there had been
at most a makeshift hut to receive the music,

a shelter nailed up out of their darkest longing,
with an entryway that shuddered in the wind-
you built a temple deep inside their hearing.

- Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

April 27 - Rock
Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP, CA

April 28 - Shoreline - Morning
South of Crescent City, CA

Left Jedediah Smith Redwoods, headed south down 101, stopping here and there to admire the attitudes of the Pacific along the way. Could drive down 101 forever. Archetypal highway. False Klamath. Klamath. Roadside attractions. Trees of Mystery. The irony of Paul Bunyon, giant lumberjack, hero of the lumber industry, here revered actual size with Babe the Blue Ox is acute. 

April 28 - Shoreline - Afternoon
Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, CA

April 28 - Coast - Late Afternoon
Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, CA

April 28 - Babe
Klamath, CA

April 28 - Camp
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

The Scenic Parkway into Elk Prairie Creek slows me down. The trees are reverential. Elk Creek sits on one side the Parkway, the other is a vast meadow. In the right season (not now), herds of Roosevelt Elk are often seen in early morning and evening. Benches line the meadow for visitor's viewing pleasure. Drive up in your car, walk 20 ft, good phone reception, check social media while waiting for nature to appear. It is crowded here these such campers. Loud and luminous with roaring fires. A thin veil of woodsmoke hangs about the roads, rings the trees. RVs, jeeps and trucks and rigs of every size. I find a relatively secluded site. Pass the evening watching the light fade. I figure to remain here for a few days. Feels like I've been running away from the Pacific Northwest, can finally take a breath. 

April 28 - Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 29 - Skull
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

In the Park Headquarters photographing their surprisingly decent collection of skulls and bones. A female park ranger stands dutifully behind a desk carrying on a conversation with another ranger nearby. Focused on the bones, I don't turn to look at the couple who have come in. I hear an older woman's pleasant voice and muttered grumbling of an old man. 

I am fascinated by the eye socket of a skull, the perfect proportions of the white arches, day dreaming as I photograph different angles of a skull as large as a cathedral wherein I could idly pass the day walking under and pass into the suffused ivory luminance of the cranium, searching for the petrified neural relics of God. 

The Park Ranger is politely answering questions about the nearby trails. The wife asks something about the age of the trees. The Ranger says that many of these trees may be as old as 2000 years. And though she has probably repeated this fact many times, there is still a measure of awe in her voice. Can you imagine that? she adds. 

The Old Man grunts and says loudly, I don't have to imagine it! I was here when these trees where just seeds in the ground. 

The Ranger laughs politely.

The Old Woman says, This kind lady doesn't want to hear your stories, dear.  

Now I turn to look at the couple. The woman is tall and slim, in an indigo patterned dress straight out of a Hitchcock film. Her auburn hair is done up on her head in a tight coiffure. She is wearing an extremely thick pair of cat-eyed glasses with elongated upsweeps. The way she carries herself brings an incongruous image to mind of a bodyguard or a well-trained ninja. Next to her is the Old Man, an utterly strange creature about 5 feet tall. He appears compressed in stature and feature, as if he had been squished down from 6 feet into this shorter form. He is wearing a black Sinatra fedora above a pronounced simian brow and deep set eyes. A jutting prow of a jaw squats upon a barreled chest with no discernible neck. His arms hang low and are covered with a thick grey pelt of hair. The knuckles of his huge hands hang at his knees. From a distance, he could be mistaken for a an old gorilla dressed as a man. 

By body language and attitude, I assume they are husband and wife. But maybe not. There is a general oddness. Initially, it seems the man is joking with the Ranger in that old man kind of way. The Ranger thinks the same. 

Well, sir, you certainly don't look you age, she says.
You don't know the half of it, he spits back with not an ounce of humor.
The Wife mediates, Don't mind him. He gets in these moods.
The Old Man bristles. It's the Goddamned Truth is what it is. I first walked these forests in the time just after Jesus was crucified and Rome burned to the earth and a thousand times since.
The Wife turns and in an forced voice that one would use with a truculent child says, We talked about this. You told me you were going to behave. No one wants to hear your stories. 
The Old Man glances over towards me. Looks back to the Ranger. Grunts and seems to sink deeper into himself. 
The Wife thanks the Ranger for the information and escorts the Old Man out. 
The Ranger looks towards the other Ranger. Shakes her head. Smiling. 
I go about my private business. 

Walking back down the road, I see the couple. They have an old Silver Airstream trailer, towed by a new Cadillac Escalade. The Old Man is sitting in a lawn chair staring moodily at into the trees. The Wife is busying about arranging items on a table. She stops, smiles and waves as I walk by. The Old Man gives me no regard. 

I wonder. What if he is a Wandering Jew like creature, an Isaac Laquedem, fated to endure until the end of time? What if he did travel through the vast ancient Redwood forests 2000 years ago? And now he spends his time traveling a circuit of those places where creatures as old as he is still exist. Where everything is not radically changed from what it once was 2000 years before. The Wife is his care-taker, his body guard, descended from a long line of daughters in a family trained to protect the One Who Cannot Die. They travel around the world disguised as a garrulous old couple with their Cadillac and their Airstream, making the rounds of places unchanged, landscapes shaped by a time geologic, where the Old Man might take slight comfort. 

Down the road a ways, I glanced back to their camp. The Wife had not moved and was still watching me, as if she had been reading my thoughts. I imagined her slipping into my tent at night like a Ninja shadow and choking me to death as I studied her eyes behind the lenses of her cat-eyed glasses. 

In such a manner do I amuse myself, I thought as I walked on the meadow road. 

April 29 - Skull
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 29 - Skull
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 29 - Gold Bluffs Beach
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

Set out in the late morning for Gold Bluff's Beach - about 6 miles through the woods. Long beautiful hours under the Redwoods. Encountered only a few other hikers. Arrived at the long beach and not another soul in sight. Walked down to the surf, wanted to touch water, surf, sea. Edged my way down, pack still on my back, reaching down to let the surf lick against my hand. I look up and see a huge wave coming in. I scramble back as fast as I can, stumble and fall in the sand, the wave crashing and slipping beneath me. Not soaking me too bad. But making me laugh at my foolishness: trying to touch the ocean and not get wet. 

I retreat to a worn down stump of driftwood and eat a small lunch. Wind and surf sounding. An entire beach to myself. I ask myself: how many times when I was younger did I long to be exactly where I was right now, standing on the western ledge of the world looking out into an ocean of stars and beyond, a diver on the platform of a Mercator projection of the Universe gazing down into the Abyss, a black starless Void, that philosopher who has crawled on hand and knee to find the liminal curtain of the Universe, who has lifted it up to peer into what is beyond. 

And now, you are here, I say to myself. What now? 

The surf hushes and whispers. The wind slips over the sands. Everything is being worn down, dis integrated, atomized into simpler and simpler elements. Purity. Simplicity. Grace. To become one thing, to act with singular intention, to think one thought, to align every string in one's being with the world, to tune to stars eternal notes, to just sit there vibrating, harmonizing, singing with it all. 

I was on the beach for a long time. 

It is my sister's birthday today. The only blood family left alive to me. 

April 29 - Gold Bluffs Beach
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

Some of the first Euro-Americans to visit the vicinity arrived in 1851 with the discovery of gold in the area that would become known as Gold Bluffs. Gold Bluffs had at one time been a substantial mining camp, although little remains of the camp today.

With the end of the Civil War and a fall in the price of gold, operations at the Gold Bluffs were shut down. In 1872 a Captain Taylor of New York visited the Gold Bluffs to obtain the mine and exploit the rich sands supposedly deposited offshore. In the spring of 1873, over 100 tons of sand were raised from an area from one-half mile to within 40 feet (12 m) of the bluffs, and in depths of from eight to four fathoms of water. However, by the 1880s activities at the Gold Bluffs again began to slump.

One story of the region comes from the area of Gold Bluffs. In a newspaper article from 1984, Thelma Hufford recorded this tale:

"At Upper Bluffs, imported miners from Cornwall, who were expert tunnel builders and who know how to set up timbers in a tunnel [were employed]...Arthur Davison said [a tunnel] was opened in 1898. The tunnel was through to the coast. It was 600 feet long and six feet square. The tunnel was built to bring water from Prairie Creek to the headwaters of Butler Creek. A reservoir was built on the west side of the creek. It was used for five years.... The opening, Fay Aldrich said, was on the Prairie Creek side of Joe Stockel's place near the apple tree on Highway 101."

By 1920 mining operations at the Gold Bluffs had been closed down.

The park was created in 1923 with an initial donation of 160 acres by then owner Zipporah Russ to the Save-the-Redwoods League. By 1931, the Save-the-Redwoods League acquired an additional 5000 acres from the Sage Land and Improvement Company, a large timber concern. During the great depression, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was stationed in the park, clearing out campsites and creating fences on the borders of the prairie.

April 29 
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 30 
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 30 
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

April 30 
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, CA

There's a man there a the base of that tree, although you can barely see him. People, vacationing, drive up along the road, park and come stand beneath this tree. And though there be hundreds that are near identical, this one is where the park has established a comfortable area to sit, to get the distance you's need to take a photograph of someone standing there. 

I'm sitting on a redwood bench eating an apple. An old couple comes up. Asks if I'd take their picture beneath the tree. Then the woman comes back. Maybe she didn't trust my picture taking skills. She hollers at the old man to stand there, she's going to take a picture of him. I likewise take my photograph. We are all insignificant here. 

Groups come and go. Drive up and drive away. The photograph a pitiful, but powerful, extension of their memory. When I tire of being asked to take everyone's photographs, I walk back to my camp.