Wisconsin to Michigan

I am no longer amazed by goneness. Swimming between rows of delicious Michigan trees, I am only high on how far I am. Where I am is no longer important, I am far far and going farther into strange lands with nothing to expect, and the knowledge that I could go on forever. And the ones I love get closer, glowing within me. Michigan has welcomed me with its giant Great Lakes that look like seas, its Northern peninsula that looks like an island, its North so northern I expect to drive off the continent at any time. Michigan where the sun comes from. Where campsites are clean and expect you to pay $20 to spend the night, but where no one’s around to enforce the fee. Private showers and rows of white sinks ask me, what will you wash first? Your face your hands your teeth your clothes your dishes your eyes your hair?

A giant mullet adorned convenience store cashier talked about Highway 2, from where I have come: “They call it US Death; so many people get killed on it. They eat down by the lake then fall asleep at the wheel and kill themselves.”

I have finally built a lasting fire under my first stars of the trip, at a campsite too clean to find wood. It takes practice to live. It takes practice to be alive.

North Dakota to Minnesota to Wisconsin

My hands are cracked and wind burned, bleeding. My eyes heavy and blackened, have expanded from the freezing temperatures, and keep rolling out of my head. The fog is coming in, a mist over my eye sockets. It’s hard to remember where I come from and where I’m going.

The highway is a man of 18 wheelers and RVs and grays and silences and cold. I have no women left to nurture me. No women but myself. The highway is a man. But it gives me privacy, no one to run into at campsites, rest stops, bathrooms. No women journeying this road. All the women are making phone calls, writing letters, and holding the world up by strings.

~

A Minnesota liquor store, with its overpriced wine from California, and nothing from Washington, is all it takes to cheer me up. I settled on an Australian Shiraz as I listened to a Saint Paul t.v. program talk about a pickled corpse from Jamaica, found in a barrel of rum.

~

Driving through Duluth, Minnesota, Bob Dylan’s hometown—a gray hillside Lake Superior city as ancient as Athens—I flipped through the FM dial and found a community station playing nothing but Dylan. It was magic; the old songs had the same melody, but the words had changed and spoke directly to me. Bob Dylan was coming out of the radio telling me you’re on the right track, you’re gonna be fine.

Montana to North Dakota

Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana look painfully similar; the barren glacier scraped landscapes are the same moment playing out again and again against dull colored, flat, treeless fields. A gray sky, wind, rain, and snow made it seem like I was being pulled backward into winter, leaving my place in the sun. I think of the Palouse: rich and alive with green warmth and sun; the unreal blowing grasses so vibrant a sweet taste comes into your mouth just looking at them; the tulips, the blossoming trees along the streets, the daffodils—I’ve seen no such sweetness yet. But there have been fleeting moments of paradise. In North Dakota nowhere land, I found Native American singing, chanting, and drumming on the FM dial. It sounded like an echo from the fields; it was the only living thing coming from the land.
A huge billboard with a Bald Eagle and an American flag on it said: “God Bless America,” only someone had torn away, “America,” and spray painted in black, “The World.”
83 was spray painted in large green numbers on the road—for the year of my birth—I saw it as I turned away from Stump Lake, where I thought to camp, but after pulling up to the site and seeing abandoned trailers, picnic benches turned up against white birch trees, and deer fading amongst ghostly trunks, the word “Stump,” made me think of severed limbs. A starch white church house and barn sat outside Stump Lake Recreational Park: “A historical county farm;” blood water from the lake overflowing up onto its road.
I passed up Devil’s Lake too. Seeing Devil’s Lake as not just a name on the map, the coal blue waters white capped by severe winds became the Devil’s body. Driving by it, I saw people walking over its waters; two dark figures bending over then moving fast. I saw people on lakeside benches in the cold, and in fields where there were only water fowl and heavenly white birds I had no names for. Huge, majestic white birds.

The wind outside continues to sound like a train crashing, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as last night.
Here, I felt cursed by the fate of a green grass car lot camping site, until walking into the Arboretum on its edge, that asked “Please Close the Gate.” I was Alice in Wonderland, stumbling into a mysterious paradise after hundreds of miles of nothingness. Walking through its twilight peacefulness, its willows and birches, I was reminded of sacred walks with Max through Moscow botanical gardens, and I didn’t feel homesick; I felt the gentleness of all the earth, the preciousness of all life.
~

I asked the frayed voiced North Dakota cashier kid at the gas station, “Is it always this windy in North Dakota.”
And he answered, “Yes, the wind never stops blowing. It has ground all the living into dirt.”

I asked the grocery store clerk, “Do you really have no beer or wine for sale?”
And she told me, “Yes, it really is so straight in Lakota, North Dakota.”
And I went outside to bury myself in the fields.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Minnesota where Bob Dylan was born—the heart of America according to him. I think I hear the heart beating most in all the places where the Natives used to live; I think I hear the heart all across the Northlands.

Montana

The monuments in the towns along Highway 2 are all of giant birds in flight. My flight is towards the sun. I am trying to catch up with the sun. I am trying to reach the dawn. I am hiding from the night.

Even solid things like houses and boxcars blow in the Montana wind, their colors spread out like heads of wheat. Black clouds and hail in Cut Bank are the realest things I have known, and trains blowing horns is the only music that means anything.

The roads through Glacier National Park are blood red. Highway 2 is lined with white crosses that sit on posts replacing signs, marking all who have died along the way. There are thousands of white crosses, making it so that white crosses are the only scenery. Tin Indian statues on rusted horses replace real Indians—Blackfeet, High Plains—replaced. Tin Indians guard junk yards of car skeletons in Montana planes.

~

I’ve got a lot of time to be nothing. And a lot of time to lose track of. The farther I go East the more hours I lose. Going from Pacific to Mountain to Central to Eastern time. Doesn’t feel like I’m far from home. Feels like I’m swimming. Swimming across Bear Lake in summer at twilight as a child, surrounded by cattails and lily pads, not wanting the sun to be fully submerged in the water. Not wanting to ever get out of the water. I’ve got a lot of time to be no one. My life spread out before me and behind me, my life summarized by a stretch of highway. This is not stagnant time. This is me from the time of my birth. Driving through Montana fields for hundreds of miles, I remembered being a two year old child and looking out at similar landscapes, endless scenery on road trips with my father, on flights of his mind. I remember our road language. Gas stations is what I asked for when needing to use the restroom, “What color will the sheets be in the hotel tonight,” is what I said when anxious to get there.

Nelson Reservoir, Montana

This place is the ocean contained in a pond. Struggling to pitch a tent in severe winds, hardship becomes hilarity. I laugh at the wind pulling up the tent’s stakes. I laugh at the horror I felt at approaching Buffalo Hot Springs Resort, 2 miles before Nelson Reservoir. A dirty ramshackle waterslide stood dry in the dirt cold wind—a hundred year old trailers surrounding it. The waterslide led to a pool of red sand and the Sleeping Buffalo Motel was a wilted pine wood wagon. The Sleeping Buffalo roadside monument was two large red boulders held captive in a manger style corral, with barrels of overflowing garbage in front of them. A sign held to a post by chains told of how the Native Americans worshipped these rocks that resembled giant sleeping buffalo. Now, in commemoration, pieces of them have been extracted and placed in this highway exhibit.

Waves beat the curb of shore and whitecaps gnaw the water. Seagulls fishing hover in one spot over the wind scoured water. The benefit of the cold and wind is my aloneness, no one is here but me and my friends and family and God and my past and future self, myself blooming through eternity. All of us laugh at how the wind shakes the tent, we aren’t afraid that it will blow away in the night. We would like to fly.

I dreamt last night that Tabitha was explaining how nothing material can satisfy the hunger of the soul.

The tarp flapping loud and wildly above my head is just a hysterical moment that will soon pass. The tarp is the flag of my soul saying yes Earth, here I am. I am grounded alright, aren’t I? Earth, we are here together, play camping, pretend scared children, preparing to live for real someday.

Albuquerque

What am I going to do about being away from the New Mexican voices and faces and root arms and bodies and souls that all grow together? How long before I get to hear them and see them and touch them again? So life is like this everywhere, meet beautiful people, fall in love with places, become reunited with family, then leave them, but learn to take them inside.
All the people in the airport tap their feet and hands in rhythm with my prayers and the music from my headphones. All the people in the airport read the exact same newspaper and switch to the next page at the same time. What will I do without the Southwest sun and mountains?
There’s turbulence leaving Albuquerque.

Albuquerque

Everyone on the airplane bowed their heads and prayed, and with ears stuffed from above cloud pressure, couldn’t hear anything but God. My New Mexican friend prayed this morning at the breakfast table before eating her fruit, hands folded in lap, head bowed.

Two women complain of their eyes twitching. one woman says: I always heard it means you’re gonna see someone you haven’t seen in a long time. The person they were seeing was me, though they did not remember our lives having always been as one.

a man cried this morning, saying he knows poverty: worked since he was 8 years old. Told a story he heard on the radio:
Little boy was tossing starfishes back into the sea from a pile of thousands that had washed to shore. Two old men came by and said, little boy, your work is futile; you’ll never finish throwing back all those starfishes. Boy takes a starfish and tosses it into the sea, says, “But I saved that one.”

Hot sun here says there’s no such thing as poverty. There’s only light. Even tears and blood and sweat of 8 year old Mexican boy are made of light.

I know that New Mexico is where I belong. In the air that sucks the moisture from your skin and lips and makes sandy cracks between your fingers. The air that feels good on bare feet. The sun that feels good pressing against lower back. The air and sun that make my body become whole and muscular, that make my arms swing hollow into the concrete canal—the dry river channel with its graffiti tags and soccer balls stuck in the mud. My hands softly grip pigeons spread out in the shape of a ladder up both sides of the concrete. My shadow symbolled upon the concrete is barred by two poles I lean against, which pigeons fly out of. Big desert city spread before me, above freeways. (The air makes thought go slow above fast of freeways). I want to know every mile of Albuquerque. My only friend from here. Born from Sandia Mountain peak. Born from 10,000 feet.

I love the way voices sound here. my friend’s sister’s voice, sounding young and sweet and saying witty things over the phone: women complain about this high altitude sun drying out their skin. (The shadows are alive and sparkle here; they are the only skin not dried out by the sun). Listening to the Oklahoman ladies’ voices, like books come into light, I just want to close my eyes, offering no voice back, my voice stuck in the mud of dry river channel, stuck in the mud of the dry Rio Grande. And the way the black women smell, I want to close my eyes and lay down in their perfume.

We’re going to the Rio Grande River. We’re going to the top of Sandia Mountain. We’re going to look down on the desert and the light will be everywhere below us and the light will be moons and suns in our eyes and stars in our heads and comets in our breasts. my friend’s brother wants us to climb 5,000 feet tonight, five hours up and five hours down. Wants us to climb all night.

Palouse

on my final run at dawn, my feet levitated above the river bank

soybeans, corn, lentils, chickpeas, carrots, tobacco leaves, peas, and flowers of all varieties fell into my hands and mouth.

With rose thorns I cut a hole into my pants pocket and gave my keys to the empty corridor, 

now we are ready to fly 

I drank leftover Kokanee on the drive to Spokane, to forgive that place, and to celebrate extending past it: They say sing while you slave but I just get bored…I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more, no I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more.

Spokane

My father confused on the phone, not knowing where I’m going, unaware that I’m leaving