Can you see in the sky rocks like seeds?

These seeds placed in one hundred jars gave birth to one hundred mountains. Truly the Cascades are the earthen counterparts of the Kauravas. Gurgling choking they rose from their clay catacombs and quickly dominated the land. My Southern Sister, both the size of a mountain and a grasshopper, leads her siblings and every year calls forth hundreds willing to stand at a height normally reserved for Krishna. Come now, reveal yourself as you once did to Arjuna!

Slowly, slowly I approached, weighed down by my pack. I used great caution, for the unpredictable peak can turn at any second. From Kali to Shakti she shifts and changes. Left foot right foot left foot right foot. I emerged from the woods and the veil was lifted, leaving me with a clear view of the summit. It’s strange how distance is skewed when it reaches a certain scale. We look from the coast to the edge of the ocean, and think it might be reached with a simple breast stroke. We butterfly, dog paddle, do all we can to tumble over the horizon like a waterfall, but we never plummet.

At last it seemed I was almost there. The final ridge looked like it might be conquered in little more than two steps. One step, two steps, three steps; I suppose it’s farther than I thought. Four steps, five steps, six steps; my concern grew. Upon closer inspection, the scale became evident. Look closely and you’ll see the people like ants. Two steps forward, one step back. The loose lava slid. I felt I was walking up a conveyor belt. My shoes filled with the liquid rock and threatened to prevent my ascent. Above the flowing burning ground my cinder-block feet continued to walk. Slowly, slowly.

Eventually I did reach the mountain’s peak. Looking out I saw the sikhara’s of the neighboring temples. Dig dip enough and we may just burst the swelling garbhabriha. Linga and yoni lie and wait in the depths of the earth. Indeed, the sisters may give birth in due time.*

Up one side, down the other. I descended via the Green Lakes trail and staggered to my camp sight. Having previously abandoned the flesh and experienced the mountain top, my freshly inhabited body felt a terrible burden. My head ached and my stomach churned. I tried to sleep but was impeded by my pounding heart. It seemed every bodily function, from breath to blood, upset my soul. I tossed turned and tumbled through the twilight.

I returned to my car via circumambulation. Skirting the edge of the South Sister I traveled from the Green Lakes to Moraine Lake, and across the Wickiup Plains. I waved a final goodbye as the mountain dropped from sight. But fear not: on a clear day the Sisters can be seen from the summit of Spencer Butte. I salute my friends daily.

*http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/photogalleries/100518-mount-st-helens-americas-most-dangerous-volcanoes-science-pictures/#/most-dangerous-volcanoes-united-states-south-sister_20374_600x450.jpg

We’ve thus far caked, cooked and rolled our way towards diabetic ecstasy, and the next logical step is, of course, to crumble.

The blackberry population seems to have peaked. Fall is just around the corner, and an inevitable, rapid decline in their physical state will soon follow. The aged berries will burst and bleed, ferment and fall, die and dry. After hiking I took to the vines and gathered what fruit I could find.

One particular branch held a dense cluster of berries, seemingly untouched by other passing hikers. I, of course, believed the other dim-witted wanderers had simply failed to see what my perceptive eyes found with no trouble at all. I greedily gathered the collections of drupelets and quickly filled my containers. I failed to notice that poison oak grew thick throughout the bush and had proved a deterrent to everyone but me. My stupidity paid off. I escaped unharmed and with buckets of berries.

I win.

The following Blackberry Crumble recipe was a quick and easy way to utilize my harvest. As always, a link to the original recipe can be found below.*

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
Topping Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Earth Balance

Lightly grease a mini loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl sprinkle the blackberries with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and toss to combine. Pour into the pan.

Combine the remaining dry ingredients for the topping and stir well. Add roughly 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance and combine. (Hands work best.) Add until the topping resembles a coarse meal. Dump on top of the berries.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the topping is crisp and the berries are bubbling.

I topped the warm crumble with a generous scoop of Coconut Bliss. If you haven’t tried the aforementioned vegan ice cream, I suggest you do so immediately.

And so ends summer.

*http://www.cucinanicolina.com/vegan-blackberry-crumble

Hikes 63 and 64: The Séance

September 6, 2011

Are you one of my ghosts?

Yellow Blue Red Brown. Colors and Curls, Lake-Eyes and Athena-Gray; these are the apparitions that haunted me. Perhaps it had something to do with the location of my trip or the dead things littering the trail. Blood and bones and lifeless limbs were scattered throughout the short hike to Bobby Lake.

Cerebrospinal fluid drought.

It would be unfair to say that not a single living thing inhabited the wasteland. The occasional flower found nourishment in the barren soil, but the rarity of such a sight made its appearance all the more unsettling. What do you live for, wilting one?

As the roots drained water from the ground, so too did the spiders drain life from their prey. They left behind only empty husks. From life to death to life to death to death to death from death comes life. Join the circle and slurp with the fervor of a thirsty arachnid. Soup will do just fine.

Drink up.

One welt, two welts, three welts, four welts. The mosquitos tapped my precious skin and drained along with the rest of the woods. One quart, two quarts, three quarts, four quarts. So parched were the frenzied flies that even the arboreal inhabitants weren’t safe. They sucked the sap from the trees until their skin mimicked my own irritated epidermis.

My veins ran dry and began to collapse. This once circulating blood of mine now inhabited hundreds thousands millions of buzzing insects that danced and glowed with an ethereal light. The life that had pumped through my very heart projected forms from the cloud of mosquitos and made me ache and pine. From these images came the colors.

Yellow Blue Red Brown. Colors Curls, Lake-Eyes and Athena-Gray; these are the apparitions that haunted me.

Again I ask, are you one of my ghosts?

The spiders are building.

Practical cathedrals threaded needles; they weave in and weave out like sweaters on the plants. Keep warm the reaching limbs, for soon the leaves will succumb to the autumnal exposure. Here in the center of a city is Wildwood Trail, a break from the busy Portland streets and crowded zoo. My arachnophobic inclinations keep my skin crawling and peeling from the ever growing presence of legs. So, too, do the trees crawl and peel until the shedding callus of bark exposes the raw skin.

External scaffolds hold in place the webbed architecture. Gothic in nature, both appalling and appealing, the heights intimidate and fill me with fear. Spires spikes gargoyles, who knows what treacherous holy idols hide in the silken cathedral?

From my vantage point on the ground, it can only go up. Up go the spiders, up go the trees, up go the vines. Lift your weary head, traveler! Why not join the stretching growing world? Limbs raised high, reaching beyond capacity I grow; my arms may tear from the strain but still they seek out the nourishment of the sun and the insects. I am a leaf and a web. We all grope blindly towards the sky.

But no; I am exposed. If I continue, I may burst forth from the canopy. Secrets will spill and be revealed. The dreadful thought keeps me from advancing. What I need now is shelter. I’ve exceeded my limit and must recoil from this intimate interaction. Those that proceed can shelter the needy. I will cower in the midst of a willing tree.

I fade. Pallid and tired I watch the forest photosynthesize. I wither in the shade. My crumbling gray skin is dust from dust to dust I’m dust. The fire was too much for my fragile existence, but still the spiders burn. I blow away and watch the spider-glow. They have no fear and the sun passes, leaving them ablaze from the peripheral glance. Grow strong and sprout your sacred horns! The wind carries me from the woods and drops me in the nearest glass. I am the ash in your tea.

Elevate Me, Hike 56

August 21, 2011

Sea level.

Too low! Up up up is where I belong. I began among the ocean trees and devilish durians and followed the Cascade Head Nature Conservancy Trail as it steadily rose to a more comfortable altitude.

The indolent hours of vacation had taken their toll. I climbed and climbed, afraid of staying on the ground for too long despite the weary trek. My wings were wilting in the salty air and the buoyant water did little to lift the dead weight of my atrophied limbs. Climb the rocks, climb the dirt, climb the trees. Brittle bones, maintain your structure! There was no time for snapping breaking crunching. The trail needed to be conquered if my strength was to be regained.

Relief! I emerged from the woods.

I met with quiet disdain from the local ladybugs. I was an intrusion. Do not worry, friends; I’ll soon be gone.

The wide meadows opened like a curtain and the waves would have drown me if not for the height. The puzzle-piece shore met the curving wall of water. Teeth and hips, hips and teeth; the world is a body. Higher, higher! Ocean rocks. Higher, higher! Roving river.

The velvet undergrowth cushioned me as it did the growing stalks. I lay down in the grass to rest my head, as the stems reached higher. I slept, they grew. I must have returned home at some point, but I can’t recall.

Hike 55 Amended

August 18, 2011

Dear Friends, I come to you remorseful and penitent. Intentionally, and for my own means, I distorted reality and further skewed the digital diorama in which I present my hikes. What I previously labeled as Hike 55 was, in fact, little more than a walk on the beach. I did hike that day, though I had no intention of presenting photos. I decided, against my better judgement, to lump together Drift Creek Falls and Dessert, believing that you, my Reader, would be none the wiser.

I now lay before you prostrate, hoping to amend my wrongdoing. We all stand on this ever shifting planet-like-quicksand searching for solid ground. To add yet another layer of uncertainty only quickens the pull of the pit. You have no way of knowing whether the following account is true, but I hope you find in my confession integrity, and believe that I bring to you my understanding of events as they transpired.

I hold no claim on the forest or the trails, and yet I feel invaded when the population of a given hike exceeds a certain level. I chose Drift Creek Falls only because it was near, but recoiled at the sight of a full parking lot. Still, I have in mind a goal and must continue to move forward, lest I slip. With a certain reluctance, I rode the wave of people down the path.

Lines of people, lines of leaves.

Where people go, structures follow. The regular pattern of trees and rocks was soon interrupted by anomalous architecture. Before me stretched a suspension bridge made to bear the burden of heavy traffic.

Shortly following this disconnecting connecter I reached the falls. I’ll forgo the usual obligatory photo of tumbling water. The crowds quickly drove me away, and I stumbled upon a small reptile as I returned. He looked at me, I looked at him. He wore a mournful expression. The lizard said nothing, just gave me a glance. Just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance.

Unless.

I was glad to have hiked, but relieved to escape the growing mob. If nothing else, I delayed the inevitable rolling.

Vacation at last. I can feel my muscles releasing and turning into soupy red jelly. My heart has all but stopped and my sleep debt is rabidly being repaid. Fill me with fat and sugar! Quickly I’ll grow and consume grow and consume, as vacation becomes but a wrinkle in my tremendous girth.

I woke early Friday morning and began the process. The waves rolled, the cinnamon rolled, and soon my sides will roll.

This recipe, despite its lack of dairy and eggs, met with universal acclaim from my harsh family of omnivorous critics. Tempted as I was to devour the whole tray, I stayed my hand.

Harmony.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup unbleached sugar
  • 1 cup soy milk, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds whisked together with 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance), melted
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance), softened

Frosting

  • About 3/8 (3 ounces) of a container of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup vegan powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

  1. Mix yeast, sugar, and heated vegan milk in a large mixing bowl and let stand until foamy. Add egg replacer, melted vegan butter, flour, and salt. Mix well and knead for 5-10 minutes. The dough should be firm and smooth, not sticky.
  2. Set the dough aside in a covered bowl for an hour to an hour and a half until it has roughly doubled in size. After the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured work surface, cover, and let rest for 10 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Roll the dough into a rectangle. Spread the dough with vegan butter, then sprinkle it evenly with the sugar mixture. Though I left the filling as is, it would be easy to add extra ingredients like raisins or nuts. Roll the dough on the longer side. Cut the rolls so that you have even slices. Cut straight down the middle first, then cut straight down the middle of the two sections, and finally cut down the middle of the four sections. In the end you should have eight evenly sized rolls if you follow this method.
  5. Place rolls in a lightly greased baking pan or two. (A cookie sheet also works fine.) Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  7. While rolls are baking, beat together Tofutti, vegan butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.
You can find the original recipe, along with other great vegan concoctions at the link posted below.*

The result of a hungry gull.

I suppose I should balance indulgence with discipline. A hike will shortly follow.

*http://www.noveleats.com/dessert/cinnamon-rolls-and-chocolate-rolls/

Standing in the presence of a mountain, its menacing stature looming beautifully terribly, the human heart rings at a resonant frequency capable of tearing apart both flesh and bone. It tolls with a fury matched only by the imposing rocky heights and its bell tower spires. What is a mountain? The bones of a giant? The world placed atop a golden turtle? A geologic anomaly caused by the subduction of lithospheric plates? Perhaps it’s little more than an old tin can being eaten by a goat. I suppose it is, like time and speed, a matter of relativity.

Friday began with a short, unassuming and inconsequential hike from Ramona Falls towards Timberline Lodge. I hiked through rocky beds and crossed the Sandy River. I was joyfully reunited with the woods and continued onward through forest and up a trail that looked very much like Spencer Butte. I grew and shrank with each bite of the mycelium fruit.

Left or Right?

As a black sequined curtain slowly lowered itself over the sun I burst forth from the familiar territory and stood trembling before Mount Vesuvius. It is here that I set up camp, knowing full well the fate that awaited me as I rested in Herculaneum. The pyroclastic explosion buried me in an ashen tomb. Even now a hollow mould of my body rests under the debris.

The morning brought relief from the horrible dreams of volcanic asphyxiation and I packed quickly, anxious to begin the arduous ascent to Paradise Park. Green and fresh, the trees once again welcomed me with a prickly embrace and I slowly stepped stepped one foot in front of the other. Up up up. Up up up. I jealously watched the effortless ascent of a fly.

But I speak too much. I turned this way and that. I lost the trail, I found the trail. Snow crowded the path and threatened to swallow me up. Finally the destination was reached in spite of me. I was treated to a feast. My engorged eyes consumed every flower, every rock, every ice crystal and every blade of grass. The day ended and the ocular snow melted in the sleeping bag warm.

My final day’s trek led me to the summit of Bald Mountain. Covered in clouds, Mount Hood took on yet another identity. Mount Sinai swirled and stormed obscured from view, and I questioned the unquestionable. No commandments were given, no glow was imparted. All I heard from the raging peak was silence. From silence I learned. From silence I grew. Words words, failing words! God has given me something far more valuable. Silence.

And yet here I am filling the page. I’ve gained nothing. Like Gilgamesh, I’ve returned without a boon; it was taken by a snake as I bathed.

As work came to an end, I faced a question with which I find myself daily confronted. It is a question that has broad implications. We constantly strive onward, looking towards the future and hoping to move on to something better and more desirable than was previously had. At the close of each action, we stand suspended in a momentary, fearful, meaningless state and ask ourselves, “What now?”

Instead of surrendering to the building existential angst, I decided this particular day to continue moving. After all, why should life end with the close of work?  I typically drive to Spencer Butte and am left with an evening to do with what I please. An empty evening hardly sounded desirable, and so I set out from my apartment, determined to walk until the sun set and the very soles of my feet burned bright and continued to blaze a path.

I approached the swiftly setting sun and found myself utterly changed into fire.

I walked and walked and passed from rural to urban. The world is filled with bees. They stare, they hide, they lick. I’ve always been wary of their presence, but have lately found them to be agreeable companions. So engrossed are they in their work that they hardly seem to notice me. I present to you yet another black-and-yellow friend. I hope you’ll not find their continued appearance tiresome.

Though I admire the presence of the bees, I find their intensity exhausting. The mien of the ladybugs refreshed my buzzing mind with calm. Nature seems to have a way of balancing. She carefully arranges her compositions to keep from wearing out our eyes and ears.

I traveled the Ridgeline Trail; I summited Spencer Butte. I continued through the streets and stopped by the house of my parents before continuing onward. “I had nothing better to do,” I told them. My mother replied with disbelief, wishing she had the same luxury. I realized as I headed towards home that my comment was deceiving. I made it sound as though I had no other responsibilities, when in truth we all simply make time for the things most important to us. The tub needed to be cleaned, the dishes were building, I’ve been intending to finish reading a novel I started several months ago, and dinner needed to be prepared. All of these things are worthy of my attention, but we must indulge in the activities that renew and refresh our minds.

Give me your answer true.

In the end I returned home, having traveled perhaps 16 miles. Imagine how far I might have gone if my days weren’t filled with work.

“The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together.

You will in the mean while have earned your fare, and arrive there some time to-morrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day.

And so, if the railroad reached around the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you; and as for seeing the country and getting experience of that kind, I should have to cut your acquaintance altogether.”*

The spider holds a Silver Ball.

*Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

“A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.”*

And so it is that I embarked on a trip not alone, but with a companion. We both, by accident or design, had time off of work on the same day. I had hoped to be able to bring not a prioress, but rather my sister by blood, on one of my expeditions, but we have on several occasions had conflicts of schedule. Finally we experienced constructive rather than destructive interference and, instead of canceling, grew in amplitude.

Together we set out, appropriately, towards Sisters and returned to Alder Springs. Though I had been there before, I was able to see the world through a new pair of eyes. A wish was no longer just a wish, but rather a pappus. Every plant had a name, every part of the anatomy a purpose. The fields full of horsetails were topped by strobilus and the communing apiaceae were exposed for the many-headed creatures they were. Names bring the world to life. Rather than a loose association of weeds, the individuality of each plant sprang forth and vied for my attention.

Summer has marched on in this arid environment and many of the flowers that once were are no longer. I encountered an old friend perusing the umbels, having been forced to abandon the other withering blooms.

We early reached the campsite, but hurried on, hoping to find the end of the maintained trail. I tried to do so on my last visit, though the rain became an unbreachable wall and forced me to retreat. The dark threatened, but still we pressed ever onward towards a potentially disappointing conclusion. Though the destination proved to be far from disappointing, it was the ever-changing landscape that made the trek worthwhile. Plants, rocks, life, death, spirits; birds, bugs, fire, water, dirt; diversity reigned.

The night concluded with an abbreviated game of scrabble in our tent. Meaningless words left abandoned without context accumulated on the board. We hadn’t the energy to question a single one. In the dark the world went on without us. Insects crawled and flew and ate and thought. The trip may have bled into the next day, or it may have ended that night; it’s hard to say. I’ll leave you with the world as it was that evening. The following day was inconsequential. We were too focused on returning to the comfort of the car to think much of the world around us. Let it stay black.

*John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men)

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