Summer Stories, But Not The One I Thought I’d Tell

I’ve been in Southern Oregon since June 30, sleeping in my tent on the queer land project I stayed at when I first accidentally moved to Oregon two years ago. It’s funny to me now that I had no idea I was coming to stay when I stepped foot in this state, or rather, when I first saw the Oregonian mountains and fields from my seat on the overnight train that took me and my backpack from Los Angeles to Klamath Falls.

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This is the very first photo I ever took of Oregon, June 2014

Tracking time is confusing and useless in some ways, but I try to do it anyway. Maybe it feels especially important to keep track when I’m on this land because We’moon, the feminist astrological datebook I worked for during the winter of 2014, is created here. You’d think working for a calendar and datebook company would solidify one’s understanding of time, but I find that it just creates more confusion. We start working on the next book about a year and a half in advance, so at the end of 2014 we were already brainstorming about 2016. Barb is sitting at the computer next to me in the office right now and she just said, “Huh, I work at a datebook company and apparently I thought November 31st is a date that exists.” So, you know. But I do like to know where the moon is at on any given day, and when planning a road trip or looking for a new job or doing, well, almost anything in our modern world, it’s useful to track time.

On the other hand, like I said, it’s totally fucking useless. Two years ago I saw Oregon for the first time. Two years ago I was about to sleep with Alley for the first time, and then a few months later we would start sort of dating, and then a few months after that I asked her to be my girlfriend “for real.” We were visiting New York and it was so fun to be in my old life with my new love and we woke up in Ali and Abby’s apartment because we were cat-sitting for them and we sat on their sofa in their living room on the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I almost never visited when I actually lived in New York, so it felt sort of new and exciting even though New York, for me, is old and familiar, and I think I just looked at Alley and said something like, “Will you please be my girlfriend already?!” And she probably rolled her eyes or laughed at me or smiled sweetly and said, “Yes.” It felt like she already was, you know, had been for a long time. But it felt really nice to say so, to be “official,” whatever that means. She waited until we were back in Portland and Mercury was out of retrograde to send me a relationship request on Facebook, so I think it was June when we became “Facebook official.”

This is what I mean about time. When is my anniversary with my girlfriend? Is it when we first fucked, when I first heard her read a poem about me, when she first picked up the phone and told me, “I don’t usually pick up the phone and I’m technically still at work,” but when I asked if she wanted to hang up she said no? Is it September 2014, or October 2014, or May 2015, or…? I just love her. When I let myself close my eyes and picture her face, her smile, when I hear her teasing gentle voice in my head, it just feels like we’ve been here forever. “We’re going to be happy for the rest of our lives, so you better get used to it,” I once told her. I was joking but I also wasn’t. She wrote a poem about that sentence and surprised me with it at a reading later that week. I don’t remember what month that reading happened in and I don’t know where the moon was at on that night and I could look at my Google calendar archives and try to find all that information but it doesn’t really matter. You know?

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My love, July 2016

I am a different version of myself now than I was when I arrived in Oregon. It feels boring to always come back to this point but it also feels salient: I was broken when I first saw Oregon. I’ve always somehow escaped breakups relatively unscathed, but everything that happened in the months leading up to my arrival here fucked me up. It wasn’t the breakup that burned me so badly, it was everything that happened after and during and around and below, and suddenly my then-girlfriend was gone but who cared when my best friends were gone, my community was gone, my version of the truth was gone. It felt like I had lost everything. That was untrue. But it’s hard to track the truth against the days until it’s been two years and you can look back and see it all crystal clear, see everything that burned down and actually say thank you, I needed that.

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Fire Goddess, October 2014

Anyway I’m here now – here here, on this magical land, in the place that saved me, no questions asked, absolutely and without question put me back together again – and the land is the same but different.

Like the blackberries still come out in the middle of July and suddenly the entire long dead end road smells like a blackberry pie, and I spend hours walking up and down the edge of the gravel strip pulling the ripe berries off the vines, avoiding the thorns, watching the black berries yield red juice that stains my hands and the basket I put them in.

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Jackie with blackberries, July 2014

Like the Madrone trees still smell the exact way that they do, sort of damp and sexy, and the ground smells burnt, so much dryer than Portland ever manages to be, and I know it’s fire season and we have to worry but I also love it, love hearing the crunching of dead pine needles under my feet, love watching the ground fade to pale yellow, love smelling the air and detecting not a single drop of moisture.

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July 2016

Like the swimming hole around the corner is still tucked away beneath a steep trail lined with poison oak on either side, waiting like a perfect cup at the bottom, surrounded by rocks that I’ll scramble down and then up, searching for the perfect crevice to stretch out and lay like a lizard for hours, listening to the falls fill up the pools, again and again and again for infinity, or at least until early August when the heat will dry the water source up so much that the pools become stagnant, murky, not an appealing spot to dip one’s naked body at all. And then they’ll sit patiently until late fall, when the rains return and the water begins flowing again in abundance, and we’ll wait patiently for next summer when we want to be naked around water again.

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Danielle at the swimming hole, June 2015

I’m talking about all the ways in which the land is the same, by which I mean the same as I first met it two years ago, which is not a very long stretch of time at all. And I know that it is also different, very different, and changing every moment. Like the blackberries used to wait until mid August to appear from their white blossoms. Like the burnt smell can lead to fires, so many fires, like the burnt smell sometimes means logging, or worse. Like last year the water warden looked at the swimming hole in July and said the water levels were lower than they usually are in September and that was bad, obviously.

The land is changing physically faster than my brain can keep up with but emotionally it holds all the same feelings I’ve ever felt, and if the world is going to burn around us maybe only one of those things is important. (I’m not saying which one.)

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Photo by Danielle, November 2014

I thought I was going to write a story about how my landmate killed a rattlesnake yesterday, maybe include some other summer stories, but instead I’ve written an overly personal account of time and change and land and I haven’t even gotten to the roots of any of those topics.

“I got inspired today and started writing a blog post that is a lot about you so I thought maybe I could email it to ya before I publish it so you can approve,” I texted Alley earlier today. I haven’t been quite so naked on the internet in a little while, even though to be honest it feels like my natural state. “Nothing if not personal on the internet, even when you’re not internetting?” she texted back, referencing my current Facebook hiatus. And, well, yes. I’ve figured it out – the thing I used to love about blogging is that it was basically a journal, a feelings atrium, a continuously unfinished thought project. Since sharing things on Facebook has evolved into the #1 way to get one’s writing out into the world, all blog posts are supposed to function as “stand alone” pieces, so we can link them and push them and hope they spark and go viral. A blog isn’t a “stand alone” piece. It’s a rich tapestry of one human’s brain. In this case, mine.

Maybe I’ll write the snake story tomorrow. Or maybe never. But it’s not really ever gonna stand alone. It’s one piece of a whole, and the whole is my life, and that’s the point. I’llΒ  keep coming back to these seeds, these ideas. I’ll keep telling you how I feel.”Relentlessly honest,” I coined my “personal brand” back in 2013. I guess even when everything changes, some things stay the same.

The truth is, I don’t really know how to be any other way on the internet, or in real life. And I’m not sorry about that.

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Photo by Sigrid, July 2014

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