ATOPIA

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There you go again
half way to somewhere
else

which is a somewhere
that you’ll also try to flee

without really being there
with the tidal fog
and nettles of you

one foot out of the door
of the moment

allergic to the shelter-in-
the-here-and-now

and its ravine of awe-full voices

On the other hand—
on which there are at least five
more ways of touching things—
Perhaps no place

is exactly where you need to be
for the strange and slick surprise to unfold

Without some tight agenda
some do-gooder-grasping
for a spring on the other side
on which you really belong

Perhaps it’s no u-
nor -dys

but -a no place

the deepest center
of everywhere and when

inside which your breath
is found
and how to get from there
to the next season of things
is anybody’s guess

even the nettle seed
and tidal fog
and the ravine that holds them all

GRAPEFRUIT IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

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Sometimes in the midst
of global pandemic crises
I sit on the river’s bank
to watch gnats dance

then peel a grapefruit
just enough to see plump flesh
and pretend it’s her
sliding my finger up and down
and bite my bottom lip

because I’m missing intimacy
and going crazy
for lack of touch

I know, I know, such is too much

I’ve been told I overshare
that some things are just not
supposed to be mentioned

like how my heart sunk
and my knees buckled
to lover mud

screaming why why? why!?
when I heard they told
the big companies
that pandemic means pollution
they could pour
into our water and our air

the water and air that’s yours and yours and mine
and not only the American Petroleum Institute’s

or how how when I found out
that the body
of Homero Gómez González,
Monarch Butterfly Defender, age 50,
was found at the bottom
of the well

I grieved for days
and I’m not sure
I will ever recover

or whether I should

when you can’t listen
to mariposas
and expect to survive

The war on truth
and the war on imagination
are the same war
waged by the petty tyrant,
Fear

and everybody knows
‘we’re all in this together’
yet the well-offs
will be weller off

while miles of lines
flood the food banks
finding the lives of lesser-offs

wondering what this together business is that we’ve been hearing
so much about

and how I’m not supposed
to admit that
I let a Jacoby Creek’s
worth of Jack
slowly wash me away

when I discovered
the decline in birdsong
and butterflies—
those other pandemics
we don’t mention
because it’s not polite

despite the work of Homero
and his friend Raúl Hernández Romero
whose skull someone found fit
to smash at the top
of a hill filled with sacred fir

because being human
requires a certain amount
of denial

but being human
also means telling the truth

and today the truth is
grapefruit turns me on
and I want clean air. I want

to drink wild, clean water. I want
every last king to fall

but every last monarch butterfly
to carry the souls of Homero and Raúl
into every person’s heart

and the truth is I want
to make love 
to this grapefruit
and forget about pandemics

#ryanvanlenning

LOYAL TO THE EARTH

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🌏LOYAL TO THE EARTH

I want my words to be loyal
to the earth

a celebration
like the spots on a fawn
prancing through young pine

or new dawn dancing
past the night

I want my words to be soft
as a bunny’s butt
and feather grass

smooth as madrone skin
or a woman’s inner thigh

Yet also, I want them to be hard as wild walnuts
tough as granite
breaking feet
and ego

deadly serious
like lightning strikes
splitting spruce

Like climate chaos
and corona crisis
carrying away the normal
on waves beyond control

as prickly as a yellow jacket
or poison oak,
that’ll leave you itching
for weeks

Words that wake you up
like a cold splash
of mountain creek
on your morning face

I want them to lead you
gently into the arms
of your DreamGiver
or an owl’s hoot
under impossibly dark skies

But also startle the rut mind
like a buck launching
from the brush

Or a bright red snow plant popping up among ice cups
in the fir forest

an eager invitation
to all of Spring’s erections

or a surprise double rainbow
after the thunder storms

I want my words
to be stained purple
from picking wild blackberries
and juicy plums

Or sexy like a peach rose unfolding
and borage bringing all the bees
to the yard

I want them to allow the wind
to blow through
like invisible currents
carrying secret scents

tickling the hair on your forearms
that you only notice
once it’s gone

above all, I want them to grow
from the soil, telling truth,
loyal to the earth

#ryanvanlenning
#happyearthday
#shelteringrace

Photos: Scenes of magical trillium and kin from today’s rainy walk in the redwoods. Ancestral Wiyot Territory

HOUSELIFE DAY #6: THE LIVING ROOM CHRONICLES

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😋HOUSELIFE DAY #6: THE LIVING ROOM CHRONICLES

Dear Diary,

I made my peace with the floor. Finally. Afterall, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a solid, flat surface to walk on. As I walk through the house I rarely trip on roots and am rarely scanning the scene for rocks or creatures. Who can argue with that?

Though at what cost? I ask myself.

After a few days, I realized that the crumbs and carrot tops I tossed on the floor haven’t been eaten or composted in any way. I sweep them up.

So far nothing living is communicating up through my feet. I either have extraordinarily dumb feet or this floor is not the living earth.

Furthermore, I fear that the natural rolling landscape that typically lends itself to the muscular flexibility of my feet and legs is now reduced to such uniform flatness, that now my body is slowly deteriorating.

I haven’t quite yet made my peace with the walls and ceiling, though.

I admit, there’s something to be said for a solid roof, trustworthily keeping the rain out, especially in Humboldt County. And hanging posters is a lot easier on a wall than on a salmonberry bush.

It’s just…it’s also a little harder to see through walls and I can’t help but have the sensation that my psychic and sense walls are also being subtly sewn up.

I now have a place to store Ryan’s belt, but search the heavens of the ceiling in vain for Orion’s Belt, and the full moon which was the largest super moon of 2020. I look towards the east out the win-doe and find an ecosystem of houses, wires, concrete, and towers as a landscape. Little barking dogs and gas powdered leaf blowers provide a charming soundscape.

Honestly, most of the time I don’t know if it’s raining or not, or what is on the tip of the tongue of the day, because I am bereft of the subtle cues and the geological gossip the fresh air ally brings to my skin and to my lungs.

Houselife Day 4: The Bathroom Chronicles

😜Houselife Day 4: The
Bathroom Chronicles

Dear diary,

I broke down and did something I haven’t done in more than two years: I bought soap. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but hey, everybody does it right? I bet some people reading this have even used several types of soap in the past year. I won’t judge you.

Not just soap, but soap with oats and lemon in it. And it was sublime! My nose immediately commenced an affair. I was tempted to eat it or make cookies out of it. But I was saving it for something special. I had looked for some soap with sand and honeysuckle and bits of cedar bark broken into it, but the store only had 108 varieties. I asked the clerk, but he just snorted loudly, turned around and walked away. Fortunately, he had a mask on.

Contrary to received opinion, soap isn’t that necessary, either for washing bodies or dishes. For years, I’d done just fine with good ol’ fashion wild water from creek, river, or ocean. I smelled like a forest king—I swear all the best nymphs loved it. Imagine mugwort meeting forest duff mixed with the scent of dawn (of sunrise fame, not the detergent).

For dishes, water alone as well, sometimes adding sand and on occasion, plant-derived saponins like from soaproot bulbs. But is it sanitary, you ask? Well, it worked for me and wildlife, and I never got sick. Until I started coming to town.

I only had one dis-ease, and that was the result of being born human.

At any rate, the reason I mention the soap is that it played a pivotal role in an experience that I think I will remember for the rest of my life. First, I should describe the room this happened in. It is small with two large white bowls and an empty closet. The closet contains nothing at all except one of the silver sticks like the one in the kit-chen, only this one was high up and fat on the end like a burl of a redwood. Like the kitchen device, it too leaked hot water when I adjusted the levers on either side.

Oh it felt delicious on my hands and arms. So delicious in fact that I found myself doing something wholly spontaneous, and so delightful…I removed every last layer of clothing and stood under this glorious hot indoor rainstorm!! For 3 hours.

All the while, the cold rainstorm outside pitter-pattered on the side of the room (I was told the see-through square holes in the walls were called ‘win-does’)

I sighed as the hot water poured over me and melted me…I won’t say more here because I know some people still deny innocent pleasures (to themselves and others), but suffice it to say there was moaning and chanting and suds and release. I was a new man!

So, regarding showers, I am a convert. (As opposed to a convict. Of all the laws I willfully and joyfully break, I have been convicted of none. Though I freely admit, I am many types of -vert, including an intro-, per-, -ebrate; and I also enjoy obverting and subverting. You might say it’s a diversion of mine 😜)

Mirror, mirror on the wall. A giant mirror hung above the white silver-sticked bowl. I’m no stranger to reflections. Pools, puddles, rivers, and lakes have their moments of remarkable clarity and with them arrives reflections of not only me, but madrones, mountains, moons, and more. Polly Dome Lake in the Touloumne high country was perhaps the most perfect mirror I’ve ever met. We are still friends to this day. Whether I’ll be as close with this mirror remains to be seen. 😜

Sure, over the past couple years, I’d taken a good hard and soft look at myself—but only from the inside. Which requires a whole different set of mirrors. And less flat than this one. (In fact, flatness seemed a persistent theme in this house and most indoor territories I’ve visited, subject of a different entry)

I just haven’t really looked at the front of my head in physical form in a coon’s age and wasn’t prepared for the startling image peering back at me:

The eyes were the color of spruce bark and barn owl down, all asparkle, and as chock full of wonder and mystery as a tree canopy full of ravens or a mountain meadow full of English daisies and lupine or the roofless sky full of suns.

God, I was gorgeous! I only mean that objectively. Sure, it was no autumn sunset or waterfall surrounded by boulders with green-mossed shoulders, but that face was a work of magnificent earthly art. It made me happy to think so many human and non-human people were able to be gifted its appearance. No wonder those beautiful beasts kept….well, that’s for another time.

Now I must report something that may sound indelicate to some ears. Nature calls in many ways: birds and bees, and a morning ritual I like to refer to as recycling. Does a bear shit in the woods? Why yes, and so do humans.

But here was this large white bowl with water in it, like some granite basin I’ve seen hollowed out in the middle of the cosumnes river. So I sat. And sat. At first, I felt weird, with no ferns or salmonberry brambles for privacy or intimate company, and had a little difficulty relaxing. But soon I realized it was no different, really, and began to really enjoy the ritual like usual.

Really be with it. Flow.

By now I’d learned that silver equals water stick or a way to control the water stick so with a flick of the wrist a loud rush of water poured in and swept it away deeper into the bowl.

Now, I have no idea where it went. I just hoped it wasn’t into the living room of Alayna, the resident below. Fences make good neighbors, someone told me, but shitting in their house makes for bad ones.

At any rate, it turned out it went ‘away’ and I had nothing to worry about. ‘Away’ was some place people kept mentioning, both with regard to bathroom visits as well as lots of other things. I hope to visit it someday.

In the meantime, I will happily explore these various realms within the indoors. Like most labyrinths, there’s only a rough map of the place, and full of both danger and happy surprises. Nothing risked, nothing gained. It’s not my first rodeo, so I was confident I’d come out the other side, not without some scrapes and bruises, but perhaps even stronger and more whole than ever before. What an adventure!

AND AGAIN IT BEGINS

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And you have the rest
of the day
to fit in

and make your face do the things
that other faces do

and your mouth utter
all the things
that aren’t your own

so why not take this
silent blue moment
with the heron

to wake up the day together
with your true face of delight?

The stale masks will still be there
hanging on the wall at noon

alongside the others, judgment
and disappointment

in the afternoon you can follow
the story of the others

who are following someone else’s story
and in the evening you can join

the others in the ritual
of draining the light from your eyes

But for now,
put in your eyes
of dawn and dew

and let your bright peace
unveil itself as the fog recedes

your bones and what holds them up
have been waiting
so long for it

the long night’s last star
doesn’t seem to mind

and the day’s star might even join you
#ryanvanlenning