Red Oak

Four ten in the morning.

I can hear it raining right now. Yesterday I noticed how the oak tree is beginning to drop its leaves, which now are a deeper gold before they turn to burgundy. My brother used to say he remembered when Mom planted that tree, sometime in the Seventies, and today it towers over the whole neighborhood, an arboreal giant. Many of the leaves fall in my neighbor’s backyard and onto the roof of his shed, but he doesn’t say anything. When life was less harmonious for me with my sister, I didn’t appreciate the red oak; but currently it gives me some happiness to think of the leaves it has shed every year since my mother passed away. I tend to forget that trees are living things because they don’t move around the way animals do, and that’s very foolish of me. Every cell of every tree has a nucleus that serves as its brain and intelligence, and every tree has to breathe like you and me. The only difference is that they breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, which benefits us who breathe oxygen.

My brother was quite a naturalist when I knew him last, or rather he was torn between this and civilization. He was always at home in the woods or at the coast, the mountains, or wherever it was pure wilderness without the taint of humankind. I wonder if someday he might just vanish in the woods with a fishing pole and a few beers? 

A Place Between

Seven o’clock.

Dawn is rising. Sky looks clear. Last night I considered psychology and religious ideas, but still I hesitate. I’ve seen what can be done with them in treatment programs. It was a nightmare for me. Today I perceive the whole industry as a racket. Maybe I’m just undecided on DDA meetings at the agency? I want Misty to be happy, but not at the expense of my beliefs. I’ve had good results with cognitive therapy, so why should I confuse myself with another approach? I don’t think I like the agency or its agenda, and I wonder how I ever got involved in this huge mess. I feel like my free will has been taken away from me. Fortunately my annual review is in mid October, and then I can speak my mind. It seems like every organization wants to sell you their opinions. If you don’t buy, then they will do a hostile takeover.

Eight twenty five. When I allow myself to feel very much I get paranoid. There must be a place in between realistic and romantic, but I haven’t found it yet. The rows of purple clouds on blue morning sky were very pretty as I trudged west on the sidewalk. My dad died 22 years ago today, but now I’m thinking more about my mother, or really a fusion of both parents. My dog Aesop waits very patiently for his breakfast while my heart plays “Mosaic” by Mark Egan. Exquisite. What would the world be like without music? There would be no worship… The squirrels in my backyard always seem so happy and playful, even when they work, caching acorns and apples for the winter. I have two trees that turn colors in the autumn: the maple goes gold and the oak a dark red like burgundy. I think my mother appreciated these things more than I can, but I’ll try harder though it gives me pain… Before long the neighborhood will be looking kind of like Sleepy Hollow. There are unfathomed depths to the soul that I’d forgotten about. This fall will be interesting to see. 

Home Quiet

Eight thirty five.

The trees have all changed color for the fall. I saw two skirting the market parking lot with burgundy leaves. On my own street, I turned and gave a backward look: much red and gold on either side. In addition, the leaves are well into the process of falling. It’s predicted to rain early this afternoon, continuing into the night. I plan on going to Bi Mart after one thirty today, but I think I’ll call a taxi. Round trip should cost about twenty dollars. That’s what money is for. If you don’t spend it, then it just sits there useless. In itself, money is a valueless fiction. I noticed a new publication on Amazon this morning: the Black Books of C.G. Jung. I felt tempted, but then I remembered why I’m leery of his stuff. He tends to be ethnocentric. For this reason, I always prefer the mysticism of American writers, specifically Emerson. He was passionately abolitionist at a time (the Civil War) when it really counted. Emerson also could be humble in his quest for wisdom, always open to new possibilities and input from people.

Nine twenty five. It definitely felt like rain on my hike to the store. The gray clouds boiled and swirled overhead. There isn’t much light outside for the overcast. It’s the kind of day for staying home and being quiet. Tomorrow I have physical therapy again, with Erin. I neither dread nor anticipate the session. I had some strange dreams last night, inspired by a book I almost bought. Because they were unpleasant, I canceled my order when I got up today. I met with nobody when I made my trip. At eight o’clock in the morning, it’s a ghost town. But I did see a handful of cars at the espresso shack drive thru. There were a few signs of life. And then there was Vicki… 


Quarter of nine.

Feeling thankful for my sobriety this morning. I thought about how I never went to grad school, and how I couldn’t measure up to my brother’s accomplishments… and joined a church instead. But you know, I am sober while he is not. And it seems to me that my life couldn’t have been any different. I actually feel quite happy today. I have sufficient money in the bank, a lot of friends, and a great dog who gets more affectionate all the time. Perhaps sobriety came at a small cost of puffed up pride. Right now I’m okay with that… The mail carrier just brought a package, and it’s probably for Aesop: a canister of marrow snacks from Amazon. The weather is hazy now, or is it simply foggy? I have to go get canned food for the dog in a few minutes. There’s no one else I envy in the world today. Just now, it’s very good to be me. 

Have a (Snapple) Day

Ten ten. Karen gave me a ride home on her way to Silver Lane on some business. I also got a donut. My trip to the store was just okay. I heard New Country music coming from Darlene’s old house as I walked by. A few places are really decked out for Halloween. Before I left from home, I found an email from Pastor asking permission to use a Romantic poem I wrote a while back in his newsletter. So I replied that that was fine… Overall, this month for me has been a time of uncertainty and of figuring things out. I’m only a faithful reporter of my experience, not a panderer to people’s tastes. Thus it isn’t all pleasant or unpleasant, but rather a realistic mix of both. I’m having a peach tea Snapple and kicking back. Aesop is probably bored with sprawling on the carpet, and maybe someday we can go for walks around the neighborhood. I just hesitate because he is so aggressive toward other people… The book of Montaigne shipped earlier this morning, scheduled to arrive Friday. Also on Friday I’m doing music with the church. They’re right: it’s not good to be cooped up at home, pandemic or no.

Eleven forty. The good news is that fall is happening in spite of the wildfires we saw in September. The smoky air on that particular Monday was traumatizing, such that it was hard to imagine nature coming back. We still need more rain, but November is usually quite wet, even stormy. The autumn is only a third of the way done. My red oak turns its leaves before the maple tree does. Taken together, this fall season is proceeding somewhat normally. The sun is shining amid great muscular clouds, and the face of nature looks friendly enough. 


The night of Walpurgis is coming soon,

All Hallows’ Eve upon a witch’s broom;

No action of the Grinch could stop it now

Nor Goodman Brown annul his wedding vow.

Deep in New England woods the sabbath calls

The autographs in cryptic bloody scrawls

Within the black book of dark forest man,

Excluding not one member of the clan.

And whether or not the legend is a hoax,

The Headless Horseman gallops through old oaks

To terrorize poor Ichabod and you

So everyone had better believe it, too.

Believe it to be safe, the rumor goes,

Or end up in a limbo no one knows. 

Autumn Calls

Three thirty 🕞. I took out three bags of trash while Aesop made a loud racket in protest. It was embarrassing for me, but I had to do at least some garbage this week. It is so nice to have cooler weather again, so I can actually think. It feels definitely like October, and while it conjures up past autumns, I also have to ask myself where do I go from here. In the etymology of “decision” is the word for “cutting.” Basically I have to cut away my past and move forward without dragging along the baggage. The turning of the leaves and their descent to the ground will mean something different to me this year. I am neither a drunkard nor a Christian anymore. It remains to be seen just what I will be from now on. It’s very overcast right now; I thought I felt a sprinkle of rain, although the forecast says no rain until next weekend. Rain and autumn leaves are so typically Oregon in the Valley. I’m glad Damien got the new fence up last May because we can expect monsoons and high winds in the fall. Gradually the days will get shorter and a bit cooler, the nights jet black and often wet. I’m also glad I don’t drive a car anymore; it’s too expensive and too stressful to keep doing. Leave the driving to someone else. Many people are all too willing to do it. I look forward to my next journey to Bi Mart or maybe Grocery Outlet. It might be interesting to go there in the late afternoon, just before dark. I haven’t seen Silver Lane at night for a while. Grove Avenue is beautiful in the fall because of the row of trees fronting each house… 

Mostly, I don’t feel many pangs or twinges of guilt or remorse anymore. Somehow I can duck these useless feelings. It may be a philosophical maneuver I learned from reading Sartre last spring and summer. It’s also a product of taking my Vraylar every night. Dunno; I just don’t feel paranoid like I used to, and that’s a great thing. I know someone who feels righteous about being depressed; he wallows in guilt as if he enjoyed the suffering. It’s not for me… 


Quarter after eight. I’m preparing to go to the store, primarily to buy Snapples. I’ve been getting away from soda, out of boredom with the same old stuff…

I observed a few fallen leaves on the street. The blocked gutter at Fremont created a little pond, as usual. I heard more bird life than is typical; wonder where they’ve been all summer. There were lost coins on the pavement, and even a discarded Bandaid. In the market, Michelle was wearing a pink sweatshirt over her blouse; yesterday it was Snoopy and Woodstock. She is always kind to me. I saw Derek on my way back, and we exchanged a hello, nothing more. The vehicles were missing from his driveway, which seemed strange. I’m counting down the minutes to Aesop’s breakfast, as he begins to lose patience.

Nine forty. The damp street, as I plodded along, called to mind countless times I’d gone to church by a hop, skip, and a jump. I reminded myself that it’s been the same old me for the past three years. And yet, the self can be a vessel for big changes. And no one may ever be expected to stay the same forever. People grow and progress with the passing of time, and the natural world we know is changing too. There’s no revoking it. The universe that began as a mere point of light and exploded into diversity keeps expanding like a balloon, and everything in it gets farther and farther apart… I encountered only four people at nine o’clock this morning. Overhanging tree limbs dripped water on my head here and there. I’m ready for the fall season. 

Dawn to Midday Sunday

Five o five.

For what seemed hours I dreamed about an artificial paradise, probably one induced by alcohol or drugs. The most tangible part of the dream was holding a brown medicine bottle in my hands and removing the adhesive label. It contained some kind of elixir, but I didn’t want my parents to find out. I hid it in the medicine cabinet of the half bath. Throughout the dream I was thinking of “The Domain of Arnheim” by Poe and the “Artificial Paradises” of Mallarme. The setting was nocturnal and urban. Right now I hear “The Perfumes of the Night” by Debussy.

Nine o’clock. This is my oldest nephew’s birthday, but I won’t call him up. I’ve heard a lot of negative things reported of him by my brother. I also had a firsthand conflict with him three years ago over politics and this thing called net neutrality. That was the time I blew up at my sister on the phone… It isn’t very warm this morning. The furnace has been turning on to keep it 70 degrees. This fall I think it would be nice to be able to use my living room. So I’ll make it a project to get those boxes out of there and create some space. Do it little by little. The books I don’t use can go in the garage. I keep forgetting that this is my house, every square foot of it. I could even start my project today. I never did buy the beanbag chairs I wanted…

Quarter of noon. I participated in the Zoom meeting and during this I got another bite on my Craigslist ad. So I called the guy and left a message. This could be fun. Today feels to me like autumn, or rather a foretaste of fall. It’s beautiful out, hinting of the potential for something good. I’m reminded of Labor Day 2003, when I met JP and Dave the first time and we jammed in the Whitaker neighborhood. All of us were sober. I haven’t abandoned hope for music. It’s just a matter of the right time and place, and the kindness of the gods.