Springtime on Camano

In the spring of 1970, Steven Jerrick and I moved to Camano Island, WA. It is a time that remains somewhat out of time. Even the house has burned down. It's as if we were never even there. But I wrote most of it down. And here we are:

April: Partly cloudy today – Steven says it’s cold out – I can see the wind in the trees, but the sun looks good coming down from somewhere above the deck eaves and making the cement apron of the lower deck and the bottom of the derelict dinghy out there look like warm places to sit down on. Steve will not be going into work today. He got up and dressed, but the car won’t start, and he’s off to walk the 3 miles to the store to call work and call about phones and mail and pick up toilet paper and tissues and whatever else, and then to walk the three miles back again. He feels pretty good about it.

May: We watched the sun come up this morning. At first the sky and bay were all pink and blue and then suddenly the sun appeared out of a depression in the mountains as if it were being squeezed up into the sky, and then it rose so fast I could almost feel myself on the planet hurtling around to face it while the first long glow on the water made an upside down exclamation point with the sun an emphatic period above the mountains.

Am having usual trouble with stories – conversation and action. I wonder if people like Robert Penn Warren do too, the writers who are so good at evoking a place and a mood and a personality and all of the metaphorical evocations that go into making all of those things – do their bits of “he said” and “she said” sound as stilted and unmoving to them on the page as mine do to me?

Have found old journals from 1977 – last good year on the farm – how strange that all seems, when I lived by the Old Farmers Almanac and was involved with NOW and Chris was in karate classes and Caroline was a wee little girl. I was married and Steve was engaged to someone else, and the future, if any had told us, a thing that could never happen as it did, did indeed, happen. No wonder I have little faith in a planned future. Because the future never stops being there, even when you think you have reached your future, it is still out there, if you survive, and utterly unknowable.

Have been to the store and bought out the place - $85 worth of steaks and chicken and hamburger and all that. It was very warm riding in the car, but there’s a chilly wind yet. Was leaving town, when I saw a lone biker headed into town and I knew right away it was a Harley hog chopper, even coming straight on, and the biker hunkered down in the seat with his legs stretched out on the pegs and his gear strapped on behind. I waited for him to pass, and he did, not looking at me or at anything but the road ahead, and then he pulled into the gas station and wiped the band back from his forehead and started to take off his goggles – I saw that much, and I saw he had a good face, a real good face, and I remembered Steve and me on the bike and I couldn’t wait to get back on the road so I drove home singing Bobbie McGee and Desperado in my cracked emphysema throat (my emphysema was imaginary) and feeling happy as a clam.

The day is thinly overcast, with the sun coming through, a cool and half-bright day, with Steve working in the garden and me working on myself. We went for a walk on the beach last night, while it was getting dark, and I had chili waiting, simmering on the stove. We walked down through the woods and down to where the sand has washed down the stairs, so that they end abruptly on a little platform, like those unfinished expressways that seem to have been left purposely ramping out into thin air for all of us car-driving suicides out there. But we didn’t ramp off into thin air, and it would have been a short drop if we had - we just slid down the sand pile that was blown up against the side of the stair, down to the beach, and climbed up on the big logs that are there and watched the water and the sky and the fishermen partying on their boat out there and listened to the continent rattle down behind us into the sea.

June: The days of childhood rise up from the past like bits of poetry long remembered, snatches of rhyme, a few lines from a song, evoking a time you no longer remember the way you remember last year, a time that is no longer a memory in itself, but only a memory of memories, from stories told and retold, from old snapshots, and the ragged flotsam of evidence that drifts up now and again out of long-unopened drawers and closets and old boxes, that cries silently and insistently not to be forgotten. There are no years of childhood. There is only one long delicious day and one terrifying night, although the deliciousness of the day can include the soft, sweet, warm nights, and the terrors of the night invade the delicious day with the sharp, cold taste of fear and the armies of nightmare.

Writing today, I sometimes have to wonder if I ever really loved anyone at all. But then I came across this birthday card I wrote for Steven that June of 1970.

Steven – If I could, I would give you
A pair of chrome-plated triple-trees
A front wheel that always rides straight even when all the bolts fall out
A phenomenology department
A mountain
A river
An ocean
A field of waving yellow grasses
5 sunny days, one misty day and one thunderstorm per week
A case of Jack Daniels
A pile of stop signs and a torch
A pile of cops and a torch
A million dollars
A magic flute
A silver spoon
A sun barge on a lake of light
A key to everlasting night
And much, much more than that.
But all I’ve got is a half-jar of pennies, and me, ten major inconsistencies, one hundred manic/depressive tantrums, 1,000 unfufilled promises, a million kisses, and a few moments of happiness. So will you take that instead? I love you, with all my heart.