Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trips and trips

One trip, about a year ago, was from alternately wonderful, comfortable and miserable cohabitation with the Poetess in a 900 sq. ft. suburban house with yard and neighbors' barking dog and street sweepers and block parties and that whole thing to living alone in a 500 sq. ft. house across town, pictured above. It's odd how sometimes the biggest trips we take are the fewest miles, as utterly trite as that sounds. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single fuck up. Not that there's ever just one. But a self-centered, dishonest, fearful and inconsiderate alcoholic like myself has to start somewhere.

The new place has been a cloister-like hermitage, mostly. It is noisy, off a main street. During the school year, ASU students wander past all night, especially Thursday through Saturday, howling drunkenly. But it has still been a sanctuary. And I like the tiny Wilcolator stove.

It's been a blessing to live here. A hide out. My emotional life has been so thoroughly unpredictable all year, and the step work in recovery so periodically all-consuming, as well as the one-on-ones working with others, that I would not have fared all that well with roommates. I know I spent hours wandering around this neighborhood last summer, in the 80 degree nights. Watching the trains.

Just before I moved, I took a trip out to an area near Wickenburg to look for some Echinomastus. If you follow these posts, you'll see that all of my trips revolve around searching for cacti, to one degree or another. This population of Echinomastus seems to fit the old description of arizonicus, created by Hester back in the 1930s. I think Marc Baker places this bunch under that varietal name.

Similar to plain old E. johnsonii and also reminiscent of acunensis, but with some morphological differences in spines and so on. Not sure if there are floral differences or not. Haven't been able to see many flowers of these in habitat. Much more recently, I went back, and visited the population in the Harcuvars as well, and sometime after I post about all the intervening trips, there will be more photos.

Some very cool little Mammillaria tetrancistra in this area as well, just on the edge of the transition to the Mojave Desert.

And a very densely branched cholla on the way down toward Tonopah AZ that looks almost like multigeniculata.

As usual, the feeling of peace and repose in the middle of nowhere was simultaneous with roiling nostalgia and tons of questions. When you go out alone, even if there isn't a huge, painful change in the wind, the mind can really kick in. Deep breaths, prayer and meditation, just being aware of what is right there and how beautiful it is can help. But I know I usually was going out to meet myself anyway.

I just remembered a few earlier trips that were solo before this one. One to Joshua Tree and one to Meadview, AZ. Maybe I'll back up. It figures I would get ahead of myself, even here. The entire year runs, runs together.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Preface to Travels

I can't get going until I clear the air on a few things.

Not entirely sure where to start the travelogue for the past year, working toward some sense of organization and structure around all these trips. Closure, too, although I think that is bound to happen on some other schedule far outside my ability to control or manage. The Poetess and I went on a couple of miraculous trips in the months leading up to the separation and eventual end of the partnership. Miraculous, because even though clear indications were everywhere that some kind of upheaval or at least fundamental change was coming, it was as if (largely) we were able to take a vacation even from that and travel very well together, as we had always been able to. One concession to the change itself was that we went to Sonora over the Christmas holidays, rather than to Baja, as we had done the three previous years.

At first, I was going to start with the beginnings of my single wanderings last spring, but it seems that to make sense of the impulse over the past 18 months, I need to honestly account for the simple fact that the Poetess has been present on all of the trips. It would be false to present them as if I were the lone adventurer. In fact, although I was physically alone, huge swaths of every one of these sojourns have been thickly laden with memories, conversations in my head, overmastering grief, gut-punching longing and loneliness and wistful nostalgia in many forms: aching, generously loving, grateful, confused, resigned. So I would like it understood from the start that this is the emotional and spiritual background of these excursions. No matter what else has been present, whether it has been awe, joy, freedom, contentment, frustration, boredom, whatever, the Poetess has been present in spirit, in my own astonishing imagination, in my company with myself, in surprising ways and in ways perhaps unhealthy or absurd, but unmanageable and unaccountable.

The irony there is that one of my goals for some of these trips was to get free and reclaim some of these places for myself. Of course, it hasn't worked out in that simple way at all. In retrospect, it is a self-centered and self-seeking goal and altogether too controlling, an attempt to manipulate the universe and the heart. Place and memory, sense triggers, wayward blinding ambushes of recollection and sometimes searing and sudden reappearances of the past in the heart of the present are the very stuff of grief and not at all subject to our preferences, not in the least concerned with or contingent on the passage of linear time.

Not to get too personal and confessional (too late?), it is also imperative that I preface all references to the partnership with the Poetess with an acknowledgement of my failures. Were this an anonymous blog, my failures could be mapped in detail. Suffice it to say that one narrative that gets to the exact nature of my wrongs but in a very general way is that this was my first partnership in some semblance of sobriety and I unconsciously tried to work it the exact way that I always had in the past, when I was an active addict. My character defects operated just as fully in this partnership as they would have if I had been drinking. I think I was even better at them, actually, since, even in long white knuckle dry periods, I was trying to be virtuous, generous, kind and caring, all to get what I wanted, all to arrange the show to suit myself. Had I been drinking or openly displaying other compulsive or addictive behavior, although it is highly doubtful the partnership would have formed at all, if it had, my selfish, dishonest, fearful and inconsiderate actualities would have manifested more egregiously and much sooner. There is a saying in recovery: "Take away the addictive behavior from a horse thief and all you have is a dry horse thief," and that rings true in this case. If I had been practicing the principles in all of my affairs, I imagine significant differences in substance and eventual outcome.

Since I have had to own my wrongs in as clear-eyed and honest a way to the best of my current ability, I have also consequentially realized that I cause a lot less harm if I just keep myself company and stop trying to manipulate other people. The last thing I ever considered in sexual partnerships was honesty. The price has been everything. Lately, I am asking "how free do you want to be?" That too is the consequence of essential dishonesty and waking to a principle of honesty.

The force of these realizations (as fumbling as they are...Bill W was not kidding when he called AA "spiritual kindergarten") has hit hardest when I have been on these travels. So I'm sure they will resurface at odd times. Lucky you.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


I haven't posted anything new here in months. The idea popped into my head recently to revisit this thing and write more and post again. I got completely sucked into the shiny microblogging Facebook thing and have spent an awful lot of time over there. The FB account is actually a major photo storage site, miniblog, social thang, sometimes shared celebration or outrage, lots of music vids from YT and so on. Great fun, but I have been longing to accomplish a few other things lately that require much longer form.

For example, I have traveled like Jehu since roughly last year at this time, with an estimated 14 or so road trips in the past 12 months. On FB, I can post photos and basically say "Okay, I'm leaving" and "Okay, I'm back" and that's that. I don't use the FB "Notes" feature because the few that I've posted, it seems no one reads. Not that a ton of people were reading this. Maybe some of the reflections on all of these trips I've taken will be a good way for me to try to make sense out of things.

The real reason I left this blog behind was the death of my dog of almost 14 years old and the subsequent break up with the Poetess and the complete change in living situation, followed by months of ashes and busted bullshit and untranslatable spiritual meanderings, heartbreak, confusion, depression, step work, defiance, and general catastrophe and surrender and repeated submersion in grief. This blog was never particularly personal and every single thing everywhere suddenly became inseparable from the personal and I just didn't feel like writing about it or really anything else. I'm not sure if this is true anymore or not. I have my days. But maybe I can write about the trips I took and post some photos and ease my way back into something, maybe even change this thing around a little bit to be somewhat more personal. That's a strange proposition since it is not an anonymous blog. And a few current students of mine, for example, have said to me a few times "hey, you should write on that blog of yours again!" and I think they are just waiting for me to spill some sort of soap opera or heartache or other dirt.

No such luck.

The other series of items that might be worth cataloging for some reason might be musical discoveries and pleasures over the past year. Many of these have been in the alt pop rock more commercial arena. Baths, Cafe Tacuba, Yo La Tengo, Akwid, Eliza Rickman, Calle 13, Krishna Das, strange stuff for me, some of it. Also a lot of revisiting of past music. And really very little new music. A fallow year in that regard. And 10 months since a performance. Just underground, as in buried.

Hanged Man.

I think I'll start with a series of travelogue posts. Maybe that will get me back in practice and get me some perspective on what I've been looking for, driving all over the crazy beautiful world.

I will tell you that I learned this much: no matter where I went, she wasn't there.