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May 27, 2007

More Wetlands writing for upcoming show at DIVA Eugene OR

I thought I would post these poems in support of my coming exhibit at DIVA Center Eugene. The title of the show is Distant Progress. It will show for the month of July. I will install a video of the same name and hang selected frame still sequences that I have extracted from the video. The still sequences will be printed on translucent vinyl and mounted on clear acrylic panels. I may then mount them as light boxes. I haven't decided on the final format. I will do a screening at the Second Friday Film Forum (7/13 7pm) at DIVA to support the exhibit with live accompanied screenings of other video works with flute, guitar and voice over using looping techniques.

 

1.

Seeming barren,

it's saturated with life.

Calm surfaces broken by violence,

violence ignored by melody.

A heron bayonets a small bird or rodent;

geese erupt in take-off;

grey clouds towel a growling jet.

Above all an arc

of meadowlark song

and color.

 

2.

Wetlands are deceptive.

I turn in expectant response

to witness unexpected events.

Sounds pull me to scenes

my eyes overlook.

Sitting still for a long time

is overwhelming.

 

3.

Eating lunch,

swallow pond.

A pickup parks in adjacent lot

discharging a stout terrier

that takes off for the marsh.

It tears through shallow water.

Honking geese sent into flight.

I want to call out

about leashes

and laws.

 

My hand

finds the camera,

the lens the dynamo.

Anger side-lined, knee jerk stalled,

I shoot the dog.

Soon tired it sits in shallows panting.

The geese recover quickly,

ducks aren't phased on far bank –

a familiar far north scene?

just wolves and foxes.

Observation is richer than judgement

when gathering.

May 19, 2007

8/2/06 Podunk at new swimming hole

Podunk at swimming hole (8/2/06)

 

There are three bends in the creek along Johnston’s lower pasture.

The first is actually a meander scar now after the creek cut through the neck of the meander about 5 years ago. The old point bar is growing over with pioneer trees and shrubs while the cut bank has become a convenient place to deposit debris from yard work. The old creek bed is marshy now with a tiny pond at its former deepest spot. This bend still flows at high water. As a boy, this was my favorite fishing spot. Once, I caught a fish in the eddies there at the head of the pool while an old timer plunked gloomily at the foot.  He was sitting on the sand cigarette in hand with his pole resting in the crotch of a forked branch he had cut from a tree and stuck in the muck. My fishing style was a bit more energetic. I worked the flow at the head of the pool with my worm casting up into the current and bouncing the bait along the bottom and guiding it into the eddies that marked the deeper part of the pool. I would do this repeatedly until I got a strike. The old timer had watched me in a lazy sort of way. It didn’t take much time for me to get a hit and to pull in a healthy keeper brown trout. I noticed the plunker shaking his head and turning away as he took a deep drag on his cigarette. We never said a word to each other. Later I often thought it would have been interesting to talk to him.

 

The second bend was also a good fishing spot, deep and slow. But there were always downed trees at the head of the pool that would constantly snag my line discouraging my attempts. This pool was and is still the site of a large exposed vein of clay. We would spend time there in hot weather carving out slabs of the grey silky clay rubbing it on our bodies. After letting it dry in the sun and washing off our skin would feel satiny smooth. My high school girlfriend and I used to sneak away to the point bank and lie naked in the sun taking leisurely pleasure in our bodies. Once, having fallen asleep after sex, we woke to the sound of a tractor and saw a neighbor farmer cutting alfalfa on the opposite bank. He waved to us.

 

The third bend, which connects Johnston’s lower pasture with Podunk’s smallest, has a high, steep cut bank of clay impregnated with gravel and large stones. This is a tough obstacle for even the spring floods to carve and has not changed much in twenty years. Because the water can’t push the bend further into the pasture, it carves down and excavates a long deep trench –  over 7 feet deep in some spots during summer. This is now the favorite swimming hole at Podunk and we have ladders leading down to the thin shore of the cut bank side of the bend. Over the years, the tailings of this excavation have moved 50 or so yards downstream and filled in a previous favorite swimming hole. 

 

This extinct swimming hole was directly behind the chicken coop and the sauna across the bottom pasture with the three poplar giants. The old Finnish farmer who sold the property to my father had built a cement pier out into the creek at an angle to allow pumping of water to his outbuildings. Over the years the flow of water around the pier created a deep hole on the downstream side. Our first swim of the season was usually around first of  May but I recall swimming in April.  I learned to swim in that hole when I was seven or eight. It was the casting-off point for perilous spring runs down the swollen stream in my father’s old 4-man Navy raft and the heat of many a sauna was dowsed by a plunge into the pool accessed, if necessary, by a hole chopped in covering ice.

 

My brother and I often caught crawfish there and kept them in holding pools along the far bank.  We would cross back over to the Podunk side and bombard the pools with stones, pretending the crawfish were soldiers in a coastal attack. I always felt bad about this behavior afterward. I knew something was wrong about it, cruel, but at the same time it was pleasurable. Contradictorily, I was often dismayed that visiting friends would want to put captive creek dwellers in jars to take home. I knew the poor things would die and I couldn’t stand the thought.

 

We had friends from down the street who would go swimming there with us. Two red headed sisters a few years apart. Edie was a teen and was often aloof and superior acting. Dylan was younger and a bit of a tomboy. The first time they visited us they brought their pony. We fed it green apples and I wondered at the green foam that formed around its mouth as it chomped. With these sisters, my siblings and I spent our summers as a kind of rural “Our Gang”. Between us we worked through many childhood and adolescent trials and tribulations.

For some reason, as the younger sister Dylan matured showing signs of breasts and a woman’s figure, we decided she was a slut – whatever that meant for kids our age.  One day in particular, spurred on by my sister and Edie, we were teasing Dylan while at the swimming hole. Whenever she dunked under we would chant – “Dylan is a striptease dancer and she-ee-ee knows it.”  She would stay under long enough for us to chant and then suddenly surface demanding to know what we were saying. We wouldn’t tell her. She would dunk again, we would chant. This went on for some time. I had a feeling she knew what we were saying, that she liked the attention.

 

We usually changed into our swimsuits at the Frog Inn, our playhouse up by the garage. Not too long after the chanting incident I was bold enough to peek in on the girls while they were changing. Dylan was standing in front of my peephole. She was pulling up her swimsuit bottoms. I was amazed to see wisps of red hair growing in her crotch. Suddenly, she seemed very different from me - no longer a peer, as if she had crossed over into an unknown territory. After that incident I didn’t participate in teasing her. Our friendship with the sisters started to wane around that time and soon we stopped hanging out at all.

 

The swimming hole gradually filled in as the pier deteriorated and the flow of the creek changed. There is a natural gas pipeline that passes through the property and crosses the creek at that point. Over the years it has been re-buried lower as the creek kept uncovering it. The subsequent construction activity further filled the old swimming hole. The continued excavation by floodwaters of the third bend just upstream finally erased all traces of the old swimming hole. It is now shallow creek bed that has a slight rise in the middle. During summer and times of low water the flow splits around this slight rise and wispy golden canary grass grows there amongst the rocks.

 

May 18, 2007

More, more older writing...Mt. Pisgah swimming hole

Mt. Pisgah swimming hole (6/28/06)

 

At swimming hole on Coast Fork of Willamette base of Mt. Pisgah vultures and osprey cruising up and down river way. I notice that the osprey don’t bother the vultures as I’ve seen them dive bomb eagles in their vicinity. Different places in the food chain. A group/school of minnows gather in the extreme shallows, very skittish, they dart out to deeper water then back in. They move en masse like a flock of starlings or sanderlings. Patterns repeated across elemental environments. Feathers, scales, wind, currents. The sunlight permeates both realms. As a vulture glides down stream its shadow caresses the pebbly riverbed and spooks the school of minnows as it passes over them. They race out to deeper water. Water-birds fleeing a phantom sky-fish. An energetic relationship ‘cross elements created, sustained and stimulated by solar radiation.

More older writing...I remember going fishing.

I remember going fishing. (7/2/06)

 

I remember going fishing with my dogs as a boy. Bright, hot days in late spring. There were always (and still are) many hawks around Podunk, mostly red-tales. At times, the hawks would circle one above the other, up to six at a time I recall. One hawk in the middle was usually the focus of swoops and aerobatics by the other hawks in the column. I intuited that this was mating behavior, though I don’t know if it was the correct time of year. Once I saw two hawks rise to the top of a column and come together violently and then plummet, wings flashing, for a hundred feet or so, coming apart dramatically a few yards above the ground. The presence of the hawks usually made my dogs nervous, causing them to stop and glance up every so often. During the aerial displays, Heidi and Sam were especially agitated, whining and fussing looking up at the birds. Perhaps they had had encounters with hawks that I didn’t know about. I felt at the time that they were responding empathetically to the tension of the moment. Somehow they knew the terrible importance of this display and were intimidated, wanting to be away from the arena.

 

I remember, as well. (7/5/06)

I remember, as well, being taught by my ichthyologist friend that I should approach pools in the stream with the sun in front of me. He explained that the trout in the pool were very smart, very wary, and if they saw my shadow pass over the pool they would know something was up. I often crouched low to the ground as I came up to a favorite spot so that the fish wouldn’t see me. I imagined the trout’s line of sight radiating out from its position in the creek, penetrating both air and water. If I stayed below it I might go unnoticed. My friend taught me also, to sneak up stream, dislodge a clump of sod and place it in the stream securing it with a large rock. As the dirt washed from the sod’s roots, a cloud of silt would wash down stream. If I could cast my bait into the cloud, the trout would believe it washed in off the bank and be more likely to strike. The times that I was disciplined enough to apply all these techniques often yielded a fish or two. When I had landed the fish and held it I was often afraid of its strength, like holding a disembodied struggling muscle.

I would kill the fish quickly, as per my friend’s instructions, so it would not suffer. Grabbing its upper jaw and bending its head back, quickly and sharply, till I felt its neck break. There would be a spasm of differing duration depending on the size of the fish, then stillness. After the killing, the fish would be wonderfully supple and loose in its body. I had a disturbing sense that the fish felt more alive when dead. Soon though, after having been in my creel, the trout would become stiff and dull, its eyes milky, its scales having lost their iridescence. I was usually content with having caught one or two fish and would return home without lingering. My father was usually glad to see the fish and I would cook them up for our lunch. I would fry them whole and my father would show me how to pull the skeleton out of the cooked fish head and all. He loved to have potatoes with the fish and dill, both usually from the garden. He always made a point of sucking the head and eating the eyes saying it was delicious. Catching and cooking fish for him was one of the few things I did as a child that seemed to please him.

Older writing appropriate for InterTidal

Here's an older piece of writing that seems to be related to the impetus behind InterTidal. It has a wetland theme and therefore is also applicable to other works in the Wetlands series (Distance, Distant Progress, DistantTRIO). I am going to post some other older writings as well.

 

Fairly Drunk (3/10/06)

 

Home here is different

Home home is all the past new

all the old new that I can turn

in my hand and smile at

all the new that felt like

no one else could feel

like I felt for the first time

all the now that filled me

and made me rise up

to things without guarantees

full of expectation and

fullness, full of want and

folly, all things for the first

time and fresh, new and

remembered, was it then

I remember or now that

I cherish?

 

Home here is different

here is the ring ‘round the moon

and balsam in the air

scent only fiber given up

to smoke.

I’m used to oak and hard wood

sour, here is soft wood sensual

and nocturnal rainbows

several kinds of clouds in

the sky at once and sun too!

frosted hillsides like corn-ball

Christmas trees.

 

Here is the last few pools and

barrens where Brandts can land

chevron-less gaggles behind

fully prefabbed neighborhoods

clean, gated repetition, replicated

domiciles of dreams and American-ness.

 

Here I’ve seen herons with bayonettes

raptors plummet against

regimented facades of trim and

pastel exterior paint, zoom to

maximum reduces the distance

between subject and encroaching sprawl.

The jogger brings the pre-fab,

the biker the expressway

the heron brings the inevitable to

the rodent as I try to find the new that was new when new

was new thousands of miles away

and years ago.

InterTidal an installation at Portland Art Center

For the month of May I have an installation titled InterTidal at the Light and Sound Gallery of the Portland Art Center in Portland OR. The opening on 5/3 was well attended. I did a live performance on 5/11 flute, looping, voice over to accompany MortalTRIO. This is an excellent venue. Kelly and Gavin are very hardworking and truly committed to the artists they host. Below is a description. I have uploaded some images as well.

Inter-Tidal

15 minute loop

multiple channel digital video

electro-acoustic sound design

 

 

This installation is born from a mix of influences; the seasons, seashore environments, moon cycles, cycles of my mental states, cycle of the day, suburban existence, monotony of daily tasks, isolation.

In the cycle of the large screen projection, the material for the video was gathered during the workweek during my time “on shift” (being a chauffer for my children, running errands, etc.), and during my time “off shift” (night time). The small screen images document places of habitude in and around the home that are forgotten in the hustle-bustle of everyday life (much like tide pools during high tide) that seem more exposed and strangely expectant without any human presence. The audio is derived from the sync sound of the video taping process. Its processing is largely a result of manipulations of the associated video clips. In the case of the small screen projections (4 of six) the audio is also derived from sync sound and presented in an intimate ensemble format.

InterTidal Still 3

InterTidal still image 3

InterTidal Still 2

InterTidal still image 2

InterTidal still 1

InterTidal Still 1

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