Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hunting the Moon

"Each generation receives a little capsule of
instructions, says Eisley, that passes through the
eye of the needle like a blowing seed. They are
carried "through the molecular darkness of a minute
world below the field of human vision and of time's
"They are tranmitted from one generation to
another in invisible puffs of air known as
words---words that can also be symbolically incised on
clay. As the delicate printing on the mud at the
water's edge retraces a visit of autumn birds long
since departed, so the little tablets in perished
cities carry the seeds of human thought across the
deserts of millenia.
---Loren Eisley, The Star Thrower"
in Richard Wentz' The Contemplation of Otherness:
th ecritical vision of religion.

Barn's burnt down
now I can see the moon.

All wisdom is rooted in learning to call
things by the right name.
---Kung-fu Tze

I write on a tablet of light from a perishing city.
In its outskirts I could be anywhere: Phoenix, Chapel
Hill, Seattle, Flagstaff. In their outskirts, the cities have perished.
Or been transmuted by the kiss of vampires.
Still, instructions drift through the eye of the
needle. From Masahide. From my younger self. He
tells me there is radiance beyond charred black. I
fore-tell my future.
I once wrote: "That double light of story and
connection has shone true---on the levelling and
subdividing of the hills and creeks of my childhood
home; on the gentrification of the neighborhoods we
hippies re-built in the heart of an Eastern city; and
even now, on Western towns and earth disappearing
before our eyes, eaten by insatiable hungers as
thoroughly as bone by cancer.
Under that light, in pure gratitude, I offer story
and the possibility of connection, delicate and
essential as Desert Big Horn bones in an un-named
Mojave wash---or any first meeting."
Over the last four years, the double light of story
and connection began to fade from my life. In the
last year I came to doubt that it would do anything
but disappear. A few friends; the Sacred Mountains; a
cluster of seven Ponderosa, one of them reduced to a
stump by the busy work of the forest service; the
double-trunked pine behind my cabin---women and men,
stone and trees have been my illumination, my medicine
and fragile tether.
Two months ago I learned that the Hassyampa Insitute
for Creative Writing summer writing conference had
been killed. For ten years or more, writers and
teachers have gathered in Prescott, Arizona for a week
of work and beauty. A month ago, a gifted editor and
even more gifted friend told me that it had become
impossible to publish the books she loved; and then
another equally fine editor and friend said identical
I told myself that as long as my hand moved a pen
over paper; as long as my fingers moved words out
through computer keys, I was where I needed to be. I
walked with friends, sat with the trees. The darkness
And then, I drove to Twentynine Palms, California to
read and teach writing for the Mojave Desert Land
Trust. I took the I-40 Mountain Springs exit to Amboy
Road. I drove west between blue-black mountains. I
was alone on the little two-lane till a beat-up
Eighties Ford truck appeared on the western horizon.
As the driver passed me, he slowed, grinned and raised
his hand.
I waved back and pulled off onto mosaic hardpan;
climbed out and leaned against the car. The mountains
to the south had begun to catch pink-gold light. It
seemed vital to know their names. There is always a
road atlas on the passenger seat. I opened it and
studied the Eastern Mojave.
Old Woman Mountains.
I smiled as I had not for much too long. Easily,
deeply. I knew the barn was nearly burnt. I knew
that somewhere down a dirt road there was an un-named
Mojave wash, and moon-white bones and an old woman
finding them. I knew it was time to leave what had
once been my home.
It was time to hunt the moon.