totality

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.”

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Bites

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.

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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.

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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.

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I found a bunch of these weird mushrooms. Saw these sticks broken beautifully, too.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The key to labyrinths …

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.

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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.

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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 …

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“Love has boundaries, and also love is boundless.”

I leave this sliver to the Kings of Change: man and caterpillar.

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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.

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I want to go with him. I head back.

For the record, Puppy’s always waiting at home when I get back.

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bonus fucking burning hot august afternoon overheated face

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River Notes & Motes

The afternoon heat is at its highest, so I go out into the world. I gave Lily the horse an apple today. She smashes it into a pulpy mess so quickly her technology needs studied. She froths green happiness. She and Puppy Moss dance together in a wary and excited friendship. Puppy bounds and Lily twists her neck gracefully while bucking playfully.

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The dogs greet me as I come down the hill. Only Murph heads to the river with us.

The tree where I decided to store my kayaks drops miniscule ticks all over your body. You can’t see them against the grain of your body hair, but can definitely see them on a white sink top or especially against the still glow of your cell phone. Now I shower when I get home. The dogs and I kayak about a bit, not far. Puppy doesn’t have his river foot quite yet.

There is either a turtle or a snake hunting in the river directly under the place I set my chair. As sunset I could see its black head arise and push past the current into where the little fish were snatching up the bugs. It would grab a little fish and let the current pull it back to the rushes as it chomped.

Small birds dance and surprise attack bugs at all levels of play. A hound dog bays in the distance. A fishing boat comes up and shares the turtle(&/or)snake’s hunting ground. The puppy sits quietly with me watching all the same things I watch.

The sun is reflected on the water. I notice that means there are two suns. This must’ve been so confusing for pre-historic peoples, it must be confusing for Puppy. In fact, how was puppy taught not to walk off the edge of the deck, would puppy leap into the sun the same way he will leap into the reflection of the sun. Are they even related objects in his mind?

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If I counted all the eyes seeing the sun at this moment, how many millions of suns would there be?

Jeanette Powers arrives at OAC

I arrived yesterday under gray skies and light rain and unpacked my things:

one backpack of clothes

one suitcase of work materials

one knapsack of paints and strings

2 kayaks with gear

1 puppy

For me, this residency is a process of cleaving away what’s unnecessary and destroying the dam around the river of my heart’s silence. I throw myself in the water.

Today, I swam with Puppy Moss in the river and watched him literally leaping for joy while I wrote the first lines of poetry in Belle, MO. “I stood up and fell down.”

We sat with the cows and got fly and mosquito bites, we ran with the horse, who seems lonely and playful both. We walked home with the whole pack of OAC dogs. We lay quietly and work in the shade.

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Studio Visit article by OAC artist in residence JANNA AÑONUEVO LANGHOLZ

Out of Osage