before I get out

I have no fiction in my heart this morning, but I want to sit down and write. For a long time I only wanted to share elegant, eloquent words here, words that had flown to me while showering or driving. Words I had to write down so the feeling surrounding them wouldn’t disappear forever. Such desperate grasps for relevance often lead me to desperation, so instead I’ll write down a few things I know to be true.

My friend is moving, to a house that I dreamed about a few months ago. When she showed me the small basement with its row of white windows and Depression-era hooks and latches, I told her that it was the house she and her family are meant to be in. The house sits in a small town north of here, next to a state park. The entire place is on the Historic Register, was built for the builders of the TVA dam that fed electricity to the valleys and hollers that surround it. You have to walk to the post office to get your mail and meet your neighbors. It’s perfect for her.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had dreams like this — that have proven themselves as more than mere images of wishful thinking on a blank screen. I dream of a museum almost every night, I dream of certain fields and copses of trees with orange leaves underfoot. I dream of small towns in the mountains. I hope these turn out to be as true as the one about my friend’s new house.

Better run — off to ride bikes with Xander. If we wait it will grow too warm and the ride will be shortened by our sweat and weakened breath and stupor.  We’ve been swimming a lot, an activity that will soon be the only appropriate outdoor one in the heat of this southern summer.

In the meanwhile, here’s a picture of what we’ve been up to this summer:


and this was two years ago the same week…

Two Years Ago



If you’re willing to be a shadow, something invisible and omnipresent to this place, you’ll have the voyeuristic privilege of seeing panoramic views of mountains, glaciers, ski lifts and lodges, and a variety of  archetypes. At Alyeska, tiny worlds are offered to you, tucked within mahogany walls and two-story stone fireplaces.

In winter guests mingle and roam with hot chocolates and wine clutched in their hands, tucked away the warmth of the hotel between mounds of virgin snow. The guests are varied, and obvious, full of secret stories.

There’s the glossy mistress, sleek in her black miniskirt and white blouse with the buttons undone just to the verge of lascivious. She hangs on the arm (and towers over) her businessman lover, whose red face gives away his heated, turned-on guilt. They ignore the ski lifts and the hiking trails, concentrating on the spa, the restaurants, and their quickened steps back to their room. They are so obvious in their attempts to be discreet that watching them is like watching a clichéd film. We know what happens after they come home, just as we know what happens after they turn the corner and make their way down the long, plush-carpeted hallway to their suite.

On the second floor, you can crane your  neck, looking up at a fabricated northern light show sky. The Aurora glows purple, then fuchsia, then red. Stars glitter down on taxidermied polar bears. Look down and there’s the lobby,  bored-looking families of skiers and snowboarders yawn and stretch their legs as they wait on leather couches. Soon they’ll saunter on wobbly, ski-booted feet to the lifts, and their cheeks will get flushed and their hearts will pump with the terrifying adrenaline that comes from flying down hills with tiny sticks strapped to your feet. At the front desk a group of workers huddle around a computer, gorgeous in their slim-fitting black pant suits and perfect haircuts. Their efficiency is calming. For a moment you ruminate quitting the world you know to come to work at the resort, so you can have a swift exciting career in hospitality, remaining unruffled under pressure in your sleek black suit.

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In the summer, there will be armies of windbreakers. The crowds from the cruise ships will seem dense and terrifying but step away from the hoards and walk the two floors down to the crisp blue pool.  Look up at the glass windowed ceiling. Your ego will shrink under the green mountains. where last season’s ski hills have melted; turned into far away waterfalls that you think you might be able to hike to. And if you hike, and I hope you will, you won’t go hungry. Wild blueberries dot the trails, and you’re all alone because the crowds have travelled to the top of the mountain for lunch, blissfully unaware of the free one that lives in the world’s northernmost rain forest.

(all photographs (c) Gary R. Johnson Photography)