hello trepid Missouri wanderers!
o. i forgot. there aren’t any.
All Missouri wanderers are intrepid! Here’s to the unfaint of heart. Here’s to those who wander.
hello trepid Missouri wanderers!
o. i forgot. there aren’t any.
All Missouri wanderers are intrepid! Here’s to the unfaint of heart. Here’s to those who wander.
Greg Edmonson lives in the studio next door and generally laughs sardonically and is never short on great music.
Here’s an improvised photo+word=poem dedicated to his paintings.
lines that curve
seem flat when you are walking along them
ants don’t notice they’re circling the perimeter of the mug
we always know when the lines are broken
each of our lots are mostly the same
with little variations in area and perimeter
under different lights of day
i see you, neighbor
i like that your world is made of dots, too
you are a painter who won’t paint over terrazzo tiles
just because there is so much more space
between the darker spots
doesn’t mean they don’t contain a triangle
and sometimes what you thought was a fork in the road
because you’re just a little ant-dot in the world
turns out to be a cul de sac
but you went down every path
and brought us back a map.
all paintings by Greg Edmonson
wordings by Jeanette Powers
Mark is a titan. One of the rare true believers. One who, like a tree, maximizes one’s output. The sycamore of his roots goes into the belly of a mid-Missouri dying railroad town called Belle. He knows all 1300+ of her residents, he has been given or bought dozens of buildings in every sort of disrepair, he builds homes for artists in residence, classrooms, galleries, theaters and wellness centers. The mimosa of his shade casts comfort for nearly 20 artists in residence, 4 dogs, a cackle of chickens, some days numbered cows, and one horse, Lily. He feeds us, he shelters us, he said to me, imagine what it would be like if you could create without having to worry about any of the basics.
He knows none of the town’s or science’s names for things but knows all about where and how they grow and talks of how the floods send boulders down the flushed creeks and bottom out in the river. He calls the concoction of ravens the Committee. He calls this place the Farm.
He is beyond driven. I think his to do list is thick as these forests. He doesn’t just weed whack the edges, but does the repairs on the mowers, coordinates with teachers for arts events, travels with artists to their shows, oversees the vet giving gynecological exams to the heifers, gets drunk with the poets, walks the dogs, brings the eggs to the co-op, knows every corner of every building and every field, and speaks with the spirit of the mountain.
She doesn’t like when you move the rocks, he says.
Well, Mark. What does she think of you moving heaven and earth?
ps: THANK YOU.
It’s been six days of virtual silence. I’ve had 2 phone conversations, minor texting and emailing and yelled at/loved on Puppy.
Of course, it’s been six days of inner FIELD DAY. Like when you started Kindergarten and went to school all year, secretly thinking it was cool but knowing that you shouldn’t say so, and then at the end of the year comes a certain day: Field Day. Where classes are cut and sleeves are rolled up and everybody laughs and it’s like you’re a family together, playing games in the sun. I have an apparent playground full of little children, older siblings, parental chaperons, teachers and friends all doing red three-leg sack race rover in my head. And even, a couple kids far off just past the tire swing near the creek talking alone.
So, it’s been just me. The first day I did the west side of the road down the mountain to the River House: treacherous. Hawk and land-fill country. The next day I did the east side of the road: lovely. Mushroom and frog country. Today I did the creek on the east side of the road. The one the deer sprung from, but hitting it much further up. Turns out, it is the main creek which feeds the Gasconade. Almighty Gaagle search engine map function informs me that the creek is unlisted, which means I get to name it.
It’s an important creek, it’s the creek where I’m going to build The Aerie!
I dropped the farm Blazer off at the Workshop and went back up the cow pasture towards the dream house from the other end of the field. I just only roughly believe their might be an easier way through, but there isn’t. Instead I’d like to introduce you to the 5 billion tiny rose thorn cuts across my calves. You know those $70 fancy waterproof open shoes you bought? You were had.
It’s ok. We’ve already learned to live with broken shoes. So I’m thinking about how Mindless Wandering means you gotta trample a lot of things. I’m mowing down who knows who’s family estates. I mean it could be some kind of super-bad-bugs-club kind of mansion down there, forget those seeds, sorry flower. Just smashing through, and puppy is worse, he’s like at least 15 horse power of stamping around breaking little plants and bug-biting energy.
And it wasn’t so different when I left the city. I was on a real roll, you know when nothing can keep the pen down? When you have a sudden dam-burst infinity of tiny and immense things to say and you don’t even worry about what happens in the wash? The delta is such a long way off. But then I became aware of leaving. This altered things. So I partied, and really found the best of them, you know? The best of what any little burrough like mine can offer: they offered the kid of the housekeeper, really smart and bright but someone nobody pays attention to. And everybody was still Mindless Wandering. But instead of smashing the dark purpleflowers and the cattails, the rosebushes and the what-i-call-missouri-cactusses (made ya laugh), we were all smashing each other.
Not intentionally, of course. HOW GAUCHE. But people who called themselves family were just throwing a real hollywood right hook into each other’s faces. I wanted to call a time-out, but I wasn’t no umpire or coach. And now I might as well be an epoch away from all that.
So I made my way from the Cow Pasture, down the Easy Path, past the Selfie Statue Meadow with the Sitting Tree and I took that right I skipped the day before. Now we’re in the creek.
Oh Annie! I’m been chasing you my whole damn life! Ms. Dillard, you are now with me and I’ve read your book. It didn’t say one damn word about ticks! You filthy liar, making Nature seem tranquil and if you’re calm they’re calm, as if you don’t carry the parasitic echoes of every relationship back with you wherever you go. Everything has its price. As you say, my numberoneprimo lady, “Nothing is lost, and everything is spent.”
It’s decades cooler in the creek. The sun and the world take on an instantly calmer air.
today is about giving yourself wholly to a thing.
I woke up at the unfathomable hour of 11:30 am. I never sleep late. I was blessed, arising into the day with all of my energy, with full focus, is it. I decided to read a book from start to finish and dedicate today to giving wholly. I chose Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.
I brewed my coffee and did my not-exercises and moved rocking chair, stool and plastic chair to the backyard with a view looking into the 9 hour hence sunset.
This book is transcendent. I’m caught on its thermals and carried forth in a great and deliberate rush. She is not trying to show us a shell, she is trying to save our lives (to paraphrase why she thinks she is a clunker at dinner parties). So many moments during the day I stop and reach down to catch my breath and make marks in my book of things i want to remember the gist of what she said:
I come to the island in the center of the creek every month of the year, I come to it as an oracle would, or as a soldier to the battlefield where he lost a leg.
what do we think of the universe?
that which isn’t flint is tinder.
But the story of mine for today is wanting to give up. Page 149. The end of the chapter on intricacy. I’m feeling a need for distraction, I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten yet today. I need to move around. I go in the residency (I live next door in the garage), which is currently empty, and there are about 18 million fruit flies. This is wholly my fault for leaving an unwashed plate in the sink, and somewhat due to the immense amount of rotting food I found on arrival. I think this is a perfect distraction, to celebrate the day’s motif by doing the dishes and cleaning so well the insects have to go back outside.
One thing being poor can teach you quick, is how to beat bug infestations.
After the kitchen is spic and span, I go back out to eat my egg/avocado/pepper burrito and pick up Tinker again to read as I eat. But, I haven’t even looked at the sky. All of the storms I’ve been hearing about at Spartan and Pioneers are finally making their way across Missouri to me. I’m going to be drenched. It’s the ocean coming back to me, having been pulled bodily by the sun and transported impossibly across the mountains to unleash its very self onto me while I eat a burrito in the Ozarks.
While I eat a burrito in the Ozarks and READ!
I am newly invigorated and pull Annie back up. Page 150. Chapter: Flood. The sky begins to sprinkle on my page.
I’m lost again into the whether and when of Annie’s exploring and stalking. She talks about how things are violent when they pass their boundaries. I know what she means in more ways than one. Part of learning is putting up boundaries, between right and wrong, between wanted and unneeded and sometimes, we forget what it’s like to know nothing.
I grown distracted by the play of the color of the sunlight on the page of the book. It’s been a cloudy day with a gorgeous breeze, can’t surely have passed 75 for a second. The sky is always somewhere baby blue to cobalt with every kind of cloud you could want, but they are thinning out. They are getting all heated up and white with the star’s adoration. You know there are 4500 horse powers of energy radiated on this meadow I sit in this moment? That means at least a couple dozen horses made of pure light energy of trampling me right now and my body responds with a purring. Browning, soothing, warm and sunning.
I haven’t been reading for awhile, and then the brilliant sun comes full force onto my skin onto this patch of Ozark wherever, we’re spinning at like 65k per hour, it’s amazing I catch it at all. I close my eyes completely and the sun is hot! The temperature has kicked up 10 degrees instantly. The house ac compressor kicks on. My eyelids are closed and turning that translucent blood red color and I swear I can see individual red blood cells whisking about in the business of keeping me blinking. Do you know there is an atom of iron at the center of the 150+atoms of carbon and whatnot that are arrayed in a very specific architecture and that if you take that iron out and exchange magnesium, you go from hemoglobin to chlorophyll?
Do you see how close I am to a tree?
I open my eyes just at the moment that it becomes the tree with the lights in it. Sunlight dances through the leaves and sets the whole business on fire, there is only black shimmer tree and dervish translucent blood sun pushing everything on. The tree and me are drunk on the power of light.
My body is pricking with transcendent pleasure. I keep hold of the book and just enjoy. The sun is heating everything up and I feel eruptions of sweat begin their tickling paths back to the ocean. Suddenly, here’s a cicada blowing his face up with frantic chirping. This one starts a song, fast, then slows down. Another fills the downbeat until together they are making a fast riff on the first fast song. Some inspired third will join in. Sometimes, this trio makes quite a song. Sometimes the third causes the whole show to go bust. In that case, it’s always the third who starts the new fast song.
The cicadas stopped when the sun went back behind the clouds again. I caught an avocado square as it fell gracelessly from my bite. We forget what it’s like to know nothing and spend our lives trying to remember. Puppy’s ears don’t match because of how he snuggled his brother in the womb. The trees shape themselves based around their competitors for the sun. Nothing is lost, but everything is spent and we are each the reflections of the health of our environment.
I feel well enough to finish the book now.
I open to read Annie say, “Things are well in their place.”
are you suffering from a face mauling?
covered in 10,000 micro-ticks?
Then join me n Puppy Moss in the valerian root and wine-inspired thought-coma we’ve both entered. We are covered in oil and freshly bathed with bug sprayed bed and new sheets and let me ask you to try to stop looking for ticks once you’ve found even one.
Welcome to the dark side of being outside. I am heartily convinced that this minor insectoid setback won’t deter me from finding a place to build my aerie, but I’m beginning to think trees may be less than perfect.
Puppy and I started today at just after dawn with this gentle dawn.
That’s Lily’s pasture and just north of it, at the 11 oclock of this photo is the cow pasture. By the way, those strings that seem to keep the cows back, they’re electrified. Good to know. We head past the lazily curious beef-to-be’s back to our back path from yesterday. This path is magnificent. Wandering, also lazy, clear walking.
I found a bunch of these weird mushrooms. Saw these sticks broken beautifully, too.
There’s lots of ways you can tell a path is well trod, and lots of broken sticks is one of them. These tiny dark purple flowers with nearly black leaves are everywhere. There are fewer small dry creek beds as on the other side of the road. You can see that the water runoff mainly uses this path to go downhill. The path is flat on one side and a foot deep ravine on the other. I’m remembering we’re still in the cow pasture, it’s big.
The path feeds out into a meadow with all sorts of directions to head in. I count three to start with, one to each side, smaller maybe for deer. The third is the obvious choice because it’s the easy crossing for a nice looking new creek, flowing. That’s the way I’m gonna go but just want to skirt the rest of the meadow.There’s a sittin’ tree, for sure. Sittin’ Trees are tall trees that have fallen over, but kept on living. Their trunk lays on the ground strong instead of rotten, a place you walk to to get away.
Puppy investigates a big lump of white on the ground, so I head that way. Someone has left their mark here, suddenly I’m a professional archaeologist! I’ve found some sort of white marblish sculpture-thing which is without a doubt man-made. What stories will it tell of the people who came before!? I like this shot because it looks like the statue is taking a selfie.
I keep walking. I see it before Puppy does, our first skeleton, now I’m like a NatGeo level professional archaelogist! Bones, definitely a femur, ribs, jawbone and further on, a skull. This appears to be a 21st century member of the Bovine Blahteblah Species probably died in a flash flood from the nearby creek and fed mountains of families of animals which fed planets of micro-ticks which now feast on me. The vertebrae are my favorite bones. To have a spine is much better then lend a hand or knee-jerk reaction.
I wander over to the creek and luckily am quietly gazing along the right-hand side of the creek bed when there’s a deer, bout the width of your grandparent’s house away. She leaps high enough to scale pop-pop’s garage door. It’s fucking majestic, but that’s absolutely not what I’m thinking at all. Fucking Puppy. Without question, there is no question that none other than puppy flushed that deer and he’s about to be off for miles. This is the dreaded deer chase, feared by every dog’s slave and the content of so many hushed campfire tales of loss.
The deer is at the top of its graceful leap, it’s been exactly .2 of a second. I scream:
OLLY MOSS! ABSOLUTELY NOT! HEP! HEP! HEP!
Full name out, the inexplicable knee-jerk scream of absolutely not, the mega-command-function, the distance correction: HEP! I don’t have the first idea where that sound came from, probably my Grandfather, but it works.
It flushes 7 more deer of all sizes and antlers and tan coat and a grace under pressure I am not even close to exhibiting. I just keep yellin for the dog to not obey his doggy nature. Basically for no other reason than I don’t want to have to worry about him for the next two hours.
At this moment, Murph (the yellow lab with the limp and the stick and the panting) shows up. Wow, where the fuck am I?
I holler for Puppy Moss another minute or so when he comes trotting back from his dance with the deer. Now the pack of us head to the crossing. My first email address on the internet was “yellowleaf.” I always found a particular beauty in the changing of color and falling though the sky. It’s not terribly surprising that over 20 years of looking within that radical change and flying blind are my top metaphors. They are everywhere I am.
We’re back at the river house where the kayaks stay. Amazing. What a less strenuous path than the road. We stop by the river and head up to watch the river from the decks.
And that’s when the tick horrorshow began. I sit nicely in the sun where I can see better and pull a dozen micro-ticks head and all out of my knee skin. Fuck. They. Are. Everywhere.
They are still everywhere. Baths and Oils and New Sheets and Bug Spray and All This Time Typing and they are still everywhere. Does your head itch? Is something crawling on your leg? look! On you back? FUCK YOU CAN”T LOOK ON YOUR BACK!
Yeah, welcome to why Puppy and I took so many valerian.
ps: I don’t know what happened to his head. Seems fine.
is to walk the edge and always go right.
The walls always have to meet back up. The trick of a great explorer is to see cracks one can slip through, nearly invisible apertures which open into pilgrimage. I left to look for tiny chasms in the heat of the day again, this time with the pack:
fanny pack with: red notebook (small, for quick access writing), camera, flashlight,river knife through belt loop with compass and matches in hilt
army pack with: 3 tubes of paint, one brush, leather notebook (sturdy, for hard writing), one sparkle silver length of nylon yarn, one utility knife, one parachute hammock, 2 slackline rachets and cords, water bottle which hitches to army pack.
Hands free, baby. Puppy Moss and I head to the back of the the property where the woods head down to the Gasconade. Sure enough, mostly clear path, definitely designed, here we go. I’m looking for slivers, puppy and I follow some small dry creek beds, come back, keep going. The path lets out behind one of OAC’s main storage buildings. Hike deeper behind there when the cawing begins. Clearly a hawk, close, flying directly above.
Looking up, the hawk is carving asterisks in the sky over me; I’ve hit a nest nearby, no doubt. I watch for a bit too long because now there are two, perched about 4 cars over and 2 elephants up. They are baying cawing warning danger leave go away danger die die die. I watch a bit longer as their caws become cadences and it’s the speakeasy with unruly jazz and the threat of a fight, heels and glasses clinking, looking for a light.
There’s a sliver here. But I’m gonna leave it to the hawks.
So I call here I am to Puppy, which tells him I’m changing direction. I stumble on the woodland alley-wall man carved to accommodate all those telephone poles and power lines. Just freaking miles of them jigsawing their way through everything beautiful with their unyielding purpose.
But, beneath them, the wildflower don’t compete with the trees for sun, so it’s also miles of bright buttons of color on a green paisley blanket with splatter dots of flickering butterflies of half a dozen varieties, 2 types of bees and at least one wasp.
Suddenly, I’m a professional photographer! These butterflies could care less about me, the are in a feeding frenzy! I think of my friend who said something I can’t stop saying to myself …
“Love has boundaries, and also love is boundless.”
I leave this sliver to the Kings of Change: man and caterpillar.
Puppy Moss still hasn’t returned after this flirtation with being a famous nature photographer, and I’ve begun yelling hey Puppy in that way I do which means: get the fuck back here right now you ole houndy moss.
I cross the road to Lily’s pasture, no horse. I cross into the cow pasture (side note, they are kept in with nothing but a freaking string, like literally) and onto the Dream House. Then past it, thinking about how we are driven to make communities and it’s tempting to set up my aerie near there to have friends and solitude and bonfires and name constellations together.
I keep walking down and away. I stop and just feel the space. It’s lovely and open and on the edge of the wood and empty. I walk one foot more. Suddenly, a whole new path opens up. But fuck. Puppy.
I want to go with him. I head back.
For the record, Puppy’s always waiting at home when I get back.
bonus fucking burning hot august afternoon overheated face