campfire corral

This phosphorescent, sinuous vista was the roof of Orcas Island last summer, in June. The oddest juxtaposition, this mossy slope and adjacent, trailing kinnikinnick! Adam and I tarried along the crown of Mount Constitution before dropping like a broken elevator to the lake below, the name of which escapes me as the island is saddled with a number of bland, forgettable place-names. The depth of field here is my cup of tea though it calls to mind a Corgi with grass-stained tummy (it’s my aperture). Several miles from the base of Constitution is home to Camp Orkila, where Adam has spent a portion of the past week (most of his time has been on Satellite Island camping under the stars). During this particular occasion we were sharing a rustic home on the island with dear friends who currently are packing boxes for a move from Ann Arbor to Philadelphia. When I should visit next hasn’t quite been figured out, I do love them and owe a call-upon.  Summer seems a virtually miserable time in the big cities back east (woe the edginess humidity hath wrought) but they’re both university academics so my favorite season (autumn) is probable to be inconvenient unless I’m in the mood for mostly exploring on my own, which I sort of could be, in the evenings regale them with exploits from my zany adventures, like almost wetting myself during a DEFCON 1 search for a sanitary public toilet after miles of walking through history with five cups of coffee.

July 2018 - Mount Constitution 476-4

This morning, Oliver Fern and I counted coins, depositing them into the pretty blue vase from whence we dumped them out last evening (in search of quarters for an apéritif at the hilltop arcade, he played five games of Super Mario Kart followed by quiet browsing at the bookshop down the street).  Curiosity got the best of us at breakfast-time, quizzing one another as to the worth of those tarnished nickels, dimes, and quarters and the grand total arrived at forty three dollars and ninety-three cents, not counting currency from Canada and Chuck E. Cheese and coin counting eventually circled to Orcas Island as I explained the history of the vase to Oliver. It came from a little farm in Crow Valley on the island, quite a long time ago. In the back of a clapboard house was a small barn with rickety shelves and Black Widows, that’s where we picked out the vase.

This morning finds me on the melancholy side, for second-youngest brother who is among the best and funniest uncles on the planet, his visit next weekend kiboshed on account of the soul-crushing demands of ruthless upstairs capitalism, I’m dreadfully disappointed but he has a young family to take care of along with a gruesome fixer-upper in Logan Square. Every day he rides the train to his office in the heart of the Loop where he disembarks into an urban obstacle course, dodging missiles of traffic through fearsome, shadowy Ayn Randian canyons of glass towers before sitting down at a leaning tower of papers stacked five feet high where he conducts drastically serious maneuvers of reasoning and logic. He’s the real big brother, one of us was fated to circle back to the Windy City, carry on the tradition, no one is more Chicago than him.  Two winters ago we stood side-by-side for an impromptu portrait of our families together, much later I startled to see the photograph: Little brother towers over me in crisp business casual, impeccably groomed while I’m discomfitingly hillbilly, long hair curtaining my shoulders, it was hard not to cringe a bit at the Wild Bill Hickock staring back. Some of us are comfortable with the tradeoff when it comes to personal grooming (there’s only so much time in the day) yet the portrait was a jarring reveal and last night, before heading up the hill for the arcade, found me trimming nearly my entire beard and mustache with dainty sewing scissors, I haven’t kept a razor for twenty years (where do I even go for a haircut?) and forgot my nose is sort of crooked, courtesy of an old schoolyard brawl. Oliver beheld with perceptible disappointment his less hirsute father as recently he finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which I’d served as the mental composite for his Hagrid.

Finally, this morning (when Oliver and I were scriss-scrossing tallies, plinking coins into the vase) my thoughts turned a quarter rotation to Adam. Several nights ago, struggling to fall back asleep I found myself reflecting upon the thorny ethics of the journal, writing about my teenager-in-the-wings. It dawned on me with clarity how devastated or conflicted his future self could be to find these accountings, if they go on much further. Up until now, I think it’s been fine. He has always been just a boy, after all. It’s like the time mother showed your first serious steady the ridiculous Kodak featuring you at four years old, the underwear is on your head (it’s supposed to be a deep sea diving helmet) and you’re itching your nekkid parts. Who gives a flying leap? But I’ve gotten past that point. Naivety or good intentions aren’t on my side, anymore. Adam deserves the right to tell his own story.  It’s time for me to start standing on my two feet.

14 thoughts on “campfire corral

  1. Wonderful tumbling writing as always… I really like how you write very descriptively about your surroundings and physical things, then occasionally dive into something on a more philosophical and/or emotional level that most humans would connect with, like how we compare ourselves to our siblings, or how much privacy our offspring are entitled to in our writing…

    That’s a lovely photograph too. You’ve avoided the trap I nearly always fall into with lansdcapes of having everything far away, so there’s not layers of depth and contrast between the far and near. The balance in yours is very pleasing to the eye.

    (By the way, I don’t have what might be construed as a beard, but do manage to get away with not shaving more than about once every seven or eight days, usually when my facial hair has become too itchy to not do so! But shaving every day (or even TWICE a day), that’s just a major waste of time…)

    • “….tumbling writing”…. think I sort of like that, Dan. And also diving into something on a more philosophical or emotional level despite it’s necessary to stay close to a buoy, not get in over my head because I’m not the best swimmer. Some of us get nervous in the deep end (it’s an unfamiliar thrill and as soon as we get there it’s time to turn around and dog paddle out-of-breath the other way). Thank you my whiskery brother-in-arms.

  2. Well Jason, I now have an indelible image of a Hagrid/Hitchcock-like figure, striding through mountains & video arcades, pockets jingling with coins, wrasslin’ with bears, mountain goats & ethical considerations, searching high & low for a clean restroom, and shooting off some pretty darn good phraseology. Man, I really like this essay, what was that John Adam’s fanfare, “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” covered a lot of ground. As far as writing about your kids, clearly a dumb thing for a blogger to say, but I’ve never been comfortable with self-revelatory journalism, and I’ve stuck to little travel postcards & invented history, so I simply haven’t thought about privacy concerns to any degree. Sounds like you’ve made up your mind that as they approach adulthood, sharing your journal entries about them constitutes an invasion of their privacy, even if you’re writing about your own reactions to their development. Would you keep a private journal, to leave to them, in some far distant future?
    Boy that mossy Corgi-belly scene looks good to me. I was back in New York last week, and it hit 95 degrees and I think the humidity matched. But apparently the fireflies loved that, and I’ve never seen so many, going out in my parents’ yard at night felt like Jacques Cousteau walking around those bioluminescent coral reefs.

    • In fact I do try to keep a private journal, I’ve done so over many years although like my archive here it’s on the sporadic, periodically occasional side of things. It was inevitable I’d get to this point but it has been a gentle revelation, not overly worrisome (my journal here has always been lightly-trafficked, relatively unoptimized for discovery sort of by design). Just have to start being a little more conscious the same way I’ve mostly avoided insinuating the boys’ mother into my writings. Btw, hopefully the boys and I won’t be too late to Great Lakes country for the fireflies (we’re touring along Lake Superior in several weeks) but I fear that may be the case. They’ve always loved collecting them in the fields around grandma’s and grandpa’s. What a wonderful reference to those bioluminescent reefs, that’s just perfect. Thanks for reading, Robert.

  3. I literally laughed out loud at the bit about “… a DEFCON 1 search for a sanitary public toilet after miles of walking through history with five cups of coffee.” This is why God put a bathroom behind every tree, dear Bearded One. 🙂 Humor aside, I echo Dan James’ admiration of how seamlessly you blend your observations about the natural world around you with even deeper insights into the world inside you. Those boys are lucky to have you for a father (even if Oliver was a bit dismayed at your “now with 30% less hair” rebranding). You’re a wonderful, wonderful storyteller.

    • Does Philadelphia even have trees? Of course I’m being facetious, my friends’ new neighborhood borders one of the city’s magnificent parks where one can walk forever. But I do seem to have a tendency after losing track of time and exit strategies to get caught in caffeinated clock-ticking rundowns with myself, one of my phobias is I’ve always been sure someday (it’s just a matter of time) I’m gonna get cited for peeing behind a dirty dumpster although the older I get the less sure I feel about any actual humiliation that would result. On that somewhat unappealing note, thank you for visiting my dear. Hope when things calm down a bit for yourself that you’ll have a chance to do some storytelling too because you’re one of my favorites.

      • “Does Philadelphia even have trees?” HAHA. But you’re so right in your observation that as we get older things like getting caught peeing behind a dumpster seem a little less mortifying. Myself, I’m taking that as one of the big perks of getting old(er) — along with no longer having any interest in the latest fashions. And thank you for your very kind closing words. With those, you’ve made my day.

      • I’ve more or less arrived to that certain age where components of my wardrobe periodically rotate back into fashion. Is this what you mean by not even trying, anymore? Hahaha!

      • That wasn’t quite what I meant, but now that you mention it … 🙂

        PS: Wish I’d kept my belly-button-height jeans from the 70s.

  4. TF you have the most exuberant descriptive writing sometimes, I have to chuckle. Your brother’s life came alive like a movie, a Coen brothers perhaps, (The Hudsucker Proxy), under your pen and your self diagnosis of Hickockitis is pretty hilarious. I feel the same way anytime I see a photo of myself and my baby sister. Always a pleasure to ramble with you TF!!! And I love the photo. Makes me want to climb that hill too.

    • And your note is a sigh of relief because it makes me feel like I managed to sort of get someplace worthwhile yet again with all my up-and-down rambling because I just never know when pressing the little blue button if all I’m doing is embarrassing myself in the ether. Thanks Ilona!

  5. Thanks for that nice little buoyant bounce around. I never quite know what to expect from one sentence to the next, sometimes one word to the next, but yet when another paragraph pops up around the bend I can’t help but smile.

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