Essay, Feb 2021
Getting Lost

I often find myself around cows, sloping around, looking for a place to be. In a field along the Lost Coast, I awoke to one outside my car window, a large black bull whinnying in distress. He must have stumbled through the fog and come across my car, frightened by the harsh piece of metal. Tight-chested, I crawled into the driver’s seat, left my spot while the stars were still out. I didn’t stop driving, drove through the ranches winding upward. I felt the sun sloping up the opposite hillside.

I was driving north to see an old friend. I stopped at a beach. I’d forgotten to lock my car.

I thought about, of all things, my scarf, a woolen white one with stark navy stripes, an artifact of my personal archaeology. Worn along the edges, perhaps from dragging across rough terrain. Bits of sand, burrs. Never washed.

I left the thought and watched the ocean again, feeling naked.

Not just the beauty but the brutality of it:

The sea anemones barricading the rocks
The starfish like roaming hands tearing at things in shells
The seagulls prowling above (nothing escapes their sight)
The surfer at the edge, facing out

Sleeping on remote roads makes you aware of fear. It’s not abstract, like it is in the city. In my mind I saw a black bear roaming.

It was all there, the whole forest. I was face-to-face with it.

It’s winter but the buds are coming.
I sleep on the moss and when I wake I see them up close, coming through every trodden crevice, little green things in the dust
in that little canyon I won’t find again, not far but small, therefore far —
And the buds so small, coming in from far —
The red spider, frantic with hunger
as hunters are, searching the dust and everywhere, it can’t let a thing go by.
Remember the dark rooms? Shuffling the papers —
I feel a hunter in myself

Along the route, little knowing interactions with loners. A stone collector. An astrophysicist. You go in one direction and pass by someone going in the other.

Bigger contradictions as I enter the city. Sharp-edged buildings against the ocean, people dressed in violent colors, spires cutting clouds. Lightning retaliates.
More retaliations: disgusting alleyways, disgusting canals with grime and dark waters. Horrible creatures accumulating in the filth. Rotting metal structures.
(At the edges, roads turn to paths, which meet rivers and streams – driven insistently toward them. People talking and laughing in the dark woods. By day, a trailer shining in a clearing by a lake.)

I pulled into a clearing. There was dew on my boots and my toes felt the cold. The redwoods faced me and I couldn’t see around them. I was terrified, started my car and left.

From a posting at the campsite: ‘If you come across a cougar, appear large, back away slowly, and DO NOT BREAK EYE CONTACT.’

Please, if this has any use, it’s to take the things of life and look at them unflinchingly, for those who would go that far