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?

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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.

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)