Monday, November 07, 2005


Roots?, 2005

Place IV (Plant Terms)

Monday, November 07, 2005
Place IV (Plant Terms)

Scott flew to Asia last Tuesday. Halloween night I lay in my night still wearing fishnet stockings, a funky floor length dress and Mardi Gras beads. We stayed on the phone until we could no longer force ourselves awake.

About at the time we could barely function we started to talk a little about his trip. I asked if he had ever considered that to be able to feel grounded, perhaps it might be advantageous to stay in one place for a while. Grounded. Roots. Uprooting. We use plant terms for this sort of thing.

How can someone be grounded if they keep uprooting and traveling? Traveling fosters other things, but is being grounded one of them? I argued on the side of the negative. In fact, I started to gather momentum in my little speech to the point where words seemed to be coming out of my mouth without any input from my brain. I’m not even certain if Scott contributed anything at all to my diatribe. When I finished he only told me he needed to go to sleep.

The next morning I woke up a bit on the stressed side. I don’t believe that was the best tangent to go off on to someone who would be getting on a plane to travel for months by himself. I tried to bury the whole thing with yoga.

Yesterday I sat underneath a brilliant yellow tree having a pre-birthday brunch with Kim and Megan at Ike’s. Kim asked me how I felt about being back in town again. ‘I’m psyched!’ I told her. Then I thought about it for a moment and continued. ‘You know, I actually feel psyched too. I’m not just saying I’m psyched because intellectually I know I must be.’ And it’s true - I do feel it finally.

I’ve been trying to think about what it is that has made me feel it. I’m not really sure at this point. Before Scott left I started to put a lot of energy into developing some sort of somewhat regular routine. The regularity mostly consists of yoga a few mornings, but it’s a start. Things are going well in my studio. I like what I’m painting. It’s easier to walk in when I like what’s on the walls. The trees are changing colors in town. It’s still a novelty for me since I grew up in Southern California. I’ve been spending a lot of time with good friends who all live here. I’m not stressed about anything. I’m doing what I want to do everyday when I want to be doing it. In general, life is good. Life is good and I don’t want to be anywhere else. I feel grounded. I feel grounded and I don’t want to leave.

Other than the friends who are here, nothing is place specific. Place - that seems to be an external thing. Place. Sense of place. Connection to place? Is it even necessary? I want to be here now because of an internal peace. But I didn’t find that internal peace by remaining here.

A few days after Scott got on his plane I realized that I hadn’t really been speaking to him at all during my phone speech on becoming more like a plant. Instead it was a speech by me for me. I was trying to convince myself that I am happy because I am here. I needed to believe right then that to be grounded I need to stay here.

However, I don’t think that’s right at all. What’s closer to the truth perhaps is that I don’t need to stay here so therefore I’m grounded. I haven’t been living here since June. I’ve uprooted and moved around. But I feel grounded.

A new vocabulary needs to be put into play. Grounded. Roots. Uprooted. Plants are stationary. I have two legs. I move.

Root. Essence. Beginnings. Heart. Soul. Substance. Delve? Rummage? Explore.

Ground. Stuck? Stranded? Prevent? Familiarize. Establish. Inform. Inspire.

Plant. Settle. Scatter? Set out? Transplant? Start? Depart. Root.

Thanks to the Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus: Explore. Inspire. Depart. All are related to roots, grounding and plants. None of those words hold any requirement of remaining in one place. In fact, they seem to defy it.

Develop roots through exploring. Feel grounded by inspiring. And with plants and planting I get back to roots. Explore substance – heart soul and essence. Isn’t that what you set out to do by getting on the plane?


Self, 2005


Settled, 2005


Emerald, 2005


Ledge, 2005


Slide, 2005


Stem, 2005


Bolts, 2005

Cable Bridge

Cable Bridge, 2005

Green Strings

Green Strings, 2005


Bubbles, 2005

Brown Algae

Brown Algae, 2005


Whiskers, 2005


Rings, 2005


Ryan, 2005

Yuba Gap Take 3 (Dostoevsky)

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 6-7, 2005
Yuba Gap Take 3 (Dostoevsky)

You can’t see anything from a car… You’ve got to…walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus.

---- Edward Abby

We stood beside our parked cars on the soft, pine needle covered strip of flat ground in front of my little abode otherwise known as the tool shed. “Hey! Have you seen this?” Scott asked pushing a button on his key chain. His Subie sprang to life seemingly on its own volition. The engine purred while, simultaneously, the entire car lurched forward – think Herbie the Love Bug. It abruptly ceased its forward progress after it had settled itself onto the small wooden barrier that separates my parking strip from the downward descent of the tree-strewn slope. In that lengthy moment I believed that our Yuba Gap, Take 3 had concluded there and then on my parking strip. But the car rested, now silently, on the wooden beam instead of hurtling itself into a tree. There was no need to call someone with a big truck and a winch: A good start indeed.

This time we borrowed packs with mesh and drain holes from Tym at Gold Rush. Everything was stuffed inside both packs, including my camera, which was nestled in a real Pelican case this time. We took the time to drive further up the dirt road past Washington to leave my truck parked a few miles up river at Canyon Creek (heeding Matt’s advice). And we brought wetsuits. Oh, yes – life-saving shortie farmer johns from work. (thanks, Dan!) We, I had to admit, were no longer looking so marginal this time.

We parked Scott’s car at Lang Crossing below Spaulding Reservoir. Scott insisted we bypass the ¼ mile from Take 2 and forgo that long, shady canyon. I balked, but in reality had no desire to revisit the location of the failed attempt of the week before. Hiking down a steep trail to a popular jumping spot called the Emerald Pools, we began our trek.

The pool 40 feet below where we stood was deep and green and, from last week, I knew – cold. Scott hucked his pack off the cliff. After a considerable time gap between lob and thud, it landed in the water below. He stood perched on the rocks for a very long time contemplating the jump. I, on the other hand needing no time for contemplation, hucked my pack off the cliff and began to scramble and slide as far down as I could get before needing to jump. I nearly made it all the way to the water. Scott jumped with a graceful quarter turn into the water. And so, we began swimming.

We hiked and climbed as much as possible to keep the cold swimming to a minimum until the sun began to go down and our ears and eyes became infested with gnats. Committing ourselves to one deep canyon after another, surrounded by granite and cold green water, we knew that we needed to find a flat section where the walls opened up before dark. I hesitated less and less before jumping, mostly because my pack would more than likely drift somewhere I didn’t want it to go – meaning I needed to spend more time in the cold water. Traversing the rock wall was a different story. I hesitated plenty when we needed to do that. It’s amazing how much less confidence I have when not attached to a colorful dynamic rope and harness and dropping into frigid water is the consequence of falling.

While it was still light, we found a beautiful beach that happened to be on the other side of the river than where we were standing. Luckily, wading across was easy enough. We peeled our wet clothed off, draped them across the rocks and made a cooking fire. Settling into the sand we ate freeze-dried macaroni and drank a bottle of red wine that we had transferred into water bottles with caps reinforced with duct tape.

Waking up in the clear morning next to Scott, I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. Nobody was anywhere near us. The place was ours alone. Somewhere in the distance – we couldn’t tell exactly from where – we could vaguely hear a train. We lingered under our joined sleeping bags until we started to get hungry and desperately needed to pee. I pulled on my shorts and my shoes and wandered around topless in the morning sun taking photos of algae and water while Scott cooked breakfast. We didn’t make any pretense of rushing to leave.

Our trek started out with more of the same – steep canyon walls, waterfalls and clear cold emerald pools of water. Nearing lunchtime we lobbed our bags off of yet another cliff face into the water, jumped in after them and swam to the other side. But this time the impact broke my camera lens. It would no longer focus.

We needed to keep moving because we didn’t know how much longer we needed to hike that day, nor did we know what time it was. We walked. We swam. We jumped. My knee started to give out.

The rocks began to turn from cliffs into boulders. No longer climbing, we jumped from one to another to another. Scott would stride, seemingly effortlessly to me, from one to the next with his long legs. I jumped, slid on my butt and lowered myself with my arms. This went on for hours, but it seemed as if that’s all we had ever been doing our entire lives. The gnats came and incessantly buzzed in our ears again as the sun began to lower. My knee got worse.

Scott found an old mining road that we hoped would free us from the rock hopping. It did for about 50 feet before it demoralizingly dead-ended into thick overgrown bushes that relentlessly grabbed my hair as I tried to charge through them with the hope that we could forever avoid another boulder hop by staying on the road. But it was not to be so. The only thing we could do was return to the river. I began to slip and fall a lot. My knee wouldn’t support me as I jumped. We both had the same thought – that we were going to spend another night out there, but this time we had no dinner and no wine. I was filled with guilt for having the faulty body that would cause such an unwanted night.

Again, Scott strode ahead as I plodded along, slower and slower. The darkening sky was streaked with orange. I raised my head when I heard Scott yell, triumphantly waving his arms and hollering. He had found a dirt road out. We had finished the crawl. At least that’s what I thought briefly.

Night came and we veered away from the river into the trees, stepping blindly through shadows. We continued slowly, he, with my pack hanging from his shoulders on his chest and his own on his back, supporting me with every protracted step. Time and distance was meaningless with nothing by which to measure either. It was dark time and we were walking. That’s all that was.

We were exhausted by the time we found my truck. Without saying much we peeled off our booties and downed warm cans of Hamm’s. Scott drove us back down the dirt road, through Washington, up to highway 20, and back to his car – away from my bed.

Even though this has been the greatest adventure on my forays on the Yuba, I feel reluctant to write in much detail about specific events or places. The idea of the place held so much mystery for me before experiencing it. I want to uphold that - it still holds much mystery. But for me the real story isn’t about the waterfalls, the jumps, the granite, the cold swims or my bum knee anyway. It’s about an internal shift beginning to occur. My connection to the river is deeper after going in there. I feel proud of it. It called the shots and I was humbled. Now I have a greater appreciation for it as its own entity and being. I belong to it; it doesn’t belong to me. And because of this, I love it. And, in teaching me about itself, it so generously taught me more about myself and about Scott.

We drove separately from the starting point of our trip back to highway 20. He was turning left to go back to Coloma for work the next morning and I was turning right to sleep late into the morning in my bed. I set my parking brake at the stop sign and hobbled from my truck to his car window to tell him what I had learned from the river. I stared at him with so much love, respect and admiration, but all the words got stuck somewhere deep in my chest. I stood there so long, as frozen as I had been a week earlier before my first jump into the water, that it became an awkward and ridiculous gesture. Turning around, frustrated and defeated by my own self, I limped back to my truck. I drove home thinking I once again let Dostoevsky down. In the entrance to my little tool shed abode I have taped a quote written in red marker to the wall, Much unhappiness has come into the world because of things left unsaid… Whether Dostoevsky was thinking most importantly of the unhappiness of the incapable sayer, or if his words benefit the intended recipient of those unsaid things mostly, or are meant only as an endorsement for the simplistic beauty and grace of clarity, I don’t know. But in this case it was I who drove away unhappy because I was too afraid or too incapable to divulge the things that seemed to become so clear to me crawling, on hands and knees on the Yuba, to the person who crawled the entire way with me.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Hair, 2005

Not Marginal

Not Marginal, 2005

Yuba Gap Take 2 (Marginality)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Yuba Gap Take 2 (Marginality)

We woke up early in Coloma for the start of our next attempt at the Yuba Gap. As we drove to my place in Nevada City Scott asks, “Has Matt ever told you about the term ‘marginal’?” No, he hadn’t. The subsequent explanation referred to Team Marginal in Arcata and things such as roof racks holding many kayaks bungied to the top of a car – The set-up worked, but it was marginal. For the record, Matt is not a member of Team Marginal.

By the time we bought food for the two days, dropped my truck off in Washington, packed and called Matt to pick us up it was after 3pm. We lay impatiently on top of my bed waiting for him to arrive. Starting the trip that late in the day was marginal at best. Matt wanted to hike in with us part of the way. To me that was even more marginal. Banging my head against a wall repetitively sounded more appealing than doing anything with Matt and Scott together, as did reading volumes of Clement Greenberg’s theories on Modern Art or being subjected to endless loops of George W. Bush’s speeches.
Scott napped in the back seat and I began to nervously chatter about nothing as Matt drove us to below Spaulding reservoir. He wondered if we knew that going all the way to where we left the truck in Washington was a bad idea. I disagreed emphatically. He watched us unload our gear and stuff things haphazardly into dry bags with a crooked smile of amusement on his face. “Marginal,” he often repeated. Many times this declaration was accompanied by a shake of his head. Water bottles and things dangled from the outside of my bag, which I slung awkwardly across my shoulder. I needed to carry my camera case in one hand. Admittedly, our set-up was a bit more cumbersome than I had anticipated.

Clad in shorts, a light long underwear top, booties, and draped with gear, we headed over the rocks to the river. The first jump was from the rocks above into the water. Matt jumped first. He gasped as he surfaced. Then Scott threw his pack and watched it drift all the way across the river before jumping after it. His reaction was the same. I stood on the rocks, peering below, frozen in place. I had not wanted to admit to myself (or anyone else, for that matter) that my severe dislike of jumping from heights into water could be a serious hindrance to this particular trip. I threw my bag and my camera. I stood, filled with dread. They waited. I stood. The bag drifted across the river to where Scott’s had gone. They waited. Finally I jumped. The shock of the cold water was awful, but the relief of not being dead after jumping buffered the pain a bit.

We swam to the first waterfall, clambered onto the rocks before the lip, cold and dripping. The bags were tossed over. Matt took over the job of launching my bag for me. My water bottle broke off the pack as it hit the water. Each of us jumped in, me last of course, after the bags and pushed them across the pool to the next drop.

This time when we pulled our bodies out of the water we tried to hug all the warmth out of the rock wall. I opened my Otter Box to pull out my camera. The foam inside was drenched and, subsequently, so was the camera. We checked our dry bags holding our dry clothes. Nothing could any longer be considered dry.

We jumped again. We swam. We peered over the next drop into the canyon below – the long, shaded canyon with vertical walls that bent out of view too far away. Matt announced that this was the place of his departure. It was to be our point of no return. Matt was driving the car back to my place. I looked below. I looked at Scott. We both were shivering. I hated to admit defeat, but I agreed to hike out with Matt.

We slowly climbed up the rock wall and back to the car. We perhaps made it ¼ mile through the canyon on Take 2. Perhaps.

Matt drove us to my truck in Washington, welcoming me to Team Marginal. Scott went down a trail to retrieve the Hamm’s he had stashed in the river while Matt and I sat on the cobbled bank. I drank a warm beer, Matt puffed on one of his cornhusk fatty cigarettes spiced up with a little lavender while Scott joined some kids across the river on a rope swing. Matt and I sat in silence for a while. He watched Scott climb, jump and swim. Eventually, turning to me, he asked if I knew that they had lived together for a while in Arcata. Yes, I knew. I sat as still as I could, afraid to move, as he told me how happy he was that Scott and I had found each other. Never before had I felt such tenderness toward Matt than at that moment, sitting next to him as the sun set behind the ridge.


Stalactite, 2005


Swim, 2005


Tortoise, 2005


Fly, 2005

Yuba Gap Take 1

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Yuba Gap Take 1 (With the Moss and the Worms)

In the middle of the night I woke up with my nose running. Allergies, I hoped. In the morning I made calls to find someone to help us with shuttle for the Yuba Gap. It was convoluted. Shawn was to drive a leg of it, then Karen. Times were ambiguous. Scott needed to sell a car in Coloma.

My nose got worse. My head throbbed and it hurt to open my eyes. I called it off. We went to Nevada City and slept in my bed late into the next morning.

We hiked up the South Yuba trail from Purdon Crossing until we found a narrow, steep trail veering down the hill to the water. It was marked with a small blue lantern hanging from a branch. Long-term camps are set up along the river’s edge. Tibetan peace flags stretch between trees. Cairns dot the banks. Sheets and tapestries become fluttering summer walls. Smoke tendrils wind their way over them through the branches and into the sky, evidence of the people tucked into rock dwellings, although we rarely saw anyone.

I took my shirt off to cross the river in a deep green pool. I kept it off as we walked along the bank and it felt good. I never knew the name of the last rapid between Edwards to Purdon before it turns into busy water. I still don’t, but now the name would have no meaning. We dropped our packs at the bottom of the rapid, spread our wet clothes on the rocks and swam, with the current, against the current and across it, watching the rocks as we glide over them. It’s weightless like flight. We crouched in a warm water-filled granite basin until we found our bodies smattered with small black wriggling worms. We fled back into the current clinging to rocks as the water pulled its way past our bodies to rip away the worms.

We sit in the shade of boulders and eat our deli-bought sandwiches by the river. While paying for them, I had asked a woman who was ordering a sandwich at the other counter to sing a Barry White song. She did. She had a nice voice, although it was nothing like Barry White’s. Scott complained that I smelled like mustard.

Scott stretched out on the rocks and napped. I strode naked aside for my Chacos strapped to my feet through the once-rapid to take photos. Time means nothing. Mosquitoes caught in a web under a rock spread wings of iridescent rainbows. Small beards of green moss in the spaces between rocks are like fluid stalactites. They stop time. He wakes up as I come back. We swim. I take photos. He takes photos. We spread ourselves on warm granite. We curl into each other. The shadows change angles and the canyon swallows the light. I felt as if we were hundreds of miles from anyone instead of only a river bend away. I felt as if we had been there since the beginning of time with the moss and the worms. I felt like we would be there always stuck in the rocks with the fossilized crinoids. I felt perfect.