Walter Benjamin pointed out that a city is a place where it is difficult to get lost. Someone is always willing to give directions, usually incorrect. In wilderness, wisdom lies in knowing that the truth is as forked and as partial as the multiple paths of a journey, and that like a metaphor a journey is the consequence of a process of connecting different paths. Journeys with destinies are journeys for origins, you need to get it right the first time or you may perish retracing your steps. The most reliable, and most misleading, directions are given by the wilderness itself.


The notion of a path
or a series of connected ways,
has interested me most of my life.
Off-path, cross-genre travel,
along with
unpacking the experimental,
caught my attention as I sojourned


through various spiritualities,
mythologies and aesthetics.
In the process, I've tried to avoid
getting stuck in erudition cambered by
tripping on ideologies itchy as Poison Oak dangerous as rotted ancient roots.

  Walk in the woods and not get lost
  wherever the woods go
  a house in the way
  a wall in the way
  a stone in the way.

Scant remembered, but incised in human DNA, the laughter of smooth stones resting on the bottom of a creek.

Is it a sign? I think
it’s a light.
We'll know for sure

Mediocrity is in the familiar, in what’s already
known. Excellence is in the unknown,
genius is in the unknowable.

To think "God," to belittle the universe, the apparitions, visitations and revelations, new and old, the messages and tidings of strange happenings in other worlds than ours, and in other states of being, are all, all, all to be found, if properly looked for, in this same well-nigh, unexplored wilderness of the mind where metaphor garbs the apparition of flesh.

"It has been a long time since philosophers have read men’s souls. It is not their task, we are told. Perhaps. But we must not be surprised if they no longer matter much to us." Reading this, I think: I’ve already thought about this. Then: Why shouldn’t I have? I’m as old as Cioran was when he wrote this.

"My prayers were answered," is a way of saying, "Something mysterious has happened," which assigns origination as research.

The animals watch from the lips
of their holes.
They’re as good at stillness
as the man is at talking,
and they are not confused
by the little hum of their heart

If you live in a plentitude there is only the plentitude.

I used to feel that I must justify myself. I was given this, now I must earn it.
What is obvious is that
the global problem of deforestation provokes unlikely reactions of concern these days among city dwellers, not only because of the enormity of the scale but also because in the depths of cultural memory forests remain the correlate of human transcendence. We call it the loss of nature, or the loss of wildlife habitat, or the loss of biodiversity, but underlying the ecological concern is perhaps a much deeper apprehension about the disappearance of boundaries, without which the end of the road is its means.


A poet experiences the world as language: there is no separation between one’s senses and one’s style, like a hermit's cave that can no longer be distinguished from real placesthat do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society---which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in the face of a cliff.

Heterotopias: "sites with no real place."

To learn from wilderness, one needs a therianthropic god to mediate. Otherwise there is only the buzz we hear in a telephone after the connection’s been broken.

When we enter the cave we are all Plato.
When we set out on a journey we are all Odysseus.
When we enter the woods we are all "a race of men
that came / From tree trunks, from hard oak."

I came here to liberate my spirit from flight, to catch it by the heels and wrest it to the ground. But now that my toes are arthritic, I can’t grip the earth without pain.

Even before I arrived here, there was this roofless, walless, stone house and gravity was not a force but what if Darwin’s principle of natural selection were merely a tiny fractal embodiment of a universal life-giving principle that drives the evolution of stars, galaxies, and the cosmos itself? What if the universe were literally the thick arms of trees. If I falter in this forest, death will cradle me like an auguring stone. 

When the Master was asked, "Who are you?" she replied, "Who am I not?," pointing to a way of being not-being.

The Big Bang created another dimension of what we call the universe. But it is really an epic poem that begins, "The disaster you prepare for / is not the one you get."

In the mountains above Santa Fe, NM, at about 12,000 ft., there’s a lake, more like a large pond.
I tossed a stone that skipped across its placid face, each touch a widening gyre.
That night the stars banded together and threw me into a black hole.

From nowhere in this forest is the city remote. It surrounds the trees, bushes, creek, defining the wildlife within. Deeper within the earth has reabsorbed the dead into its elements for so many millions of years, who can any longer tell the difference between receptacle and contents? Take away the millennial residues that consecrate them, human or otherwise, and our waters, forests, deserts, mountains, and rocks promise what pavement can’t deliver. 

The world’s integument is stretched
over the Void like a drum, while my brain
is wrinkled like a newborn's skin.

I live in midst a mythology that raises its brow in a constant state of questioning itself. No need to walk far to enter its domain, as the Inferno and especially the Purgatorio glorify the human gait, the measure and rhythm of walking, the foot and its shape. The step, linked to the breathing and saturated with thought: this Dante understands this is not a place but a sign of its passion.

"Education is schooling in the swiftest possible associations. You grasp them on the wing, you are sensitive to allusions—therein lies Dante's favorite form of praise." Tonight in the forest, with not humans to see it, a body falls with a heavy thump. It is as if I have fallen too, and everything everywhere has suddenly let go of itself.

Is wilderness an emergent consciousness, a more integrated, compassionate scheme than ourselves? Are we too far ahead to see what’s ahead?

We say of the dead that he or she "is survived by…" These survivors are on a march toward death too.

My next door neighbor is recently blind. Today, his 72nd birthday, he asked me if I’d guide him as he learns to negotiate the streets. Along the way, he told me that he was born in Illinois during the Great Depression, and that his father, who died young, never let anything go to waste. For example. There was a chicken who laid her eggs on the porch. Breakfast delivered. The family grew fond of her, but when she could no longer produce, his father went to the tool shed, returned with a long knife, and picked up the hen by its neck. My neighbor said that the bird sensed what was to come and stared straight into her executioner's eyes....until, in a disgusted voice, his father said to the bird, "You’ll die of old age." "When he put her down," my neighbor said, "the chicken took off and was never seen again."

I have viewed the mountain "from the wilderness as well as the village," as Thoreau put it, and have finally arrived at a place where the village, this city will continue to teem with life, but it will be a peculiarly homogenized assemblage of organisms naturally and unnaturally selected for their compatibility with one fundamental force: us. Nothing-not national or international laws, global bioreserves, local sustainability schemes, nor even "wildlands" fantasies-can change the current course. The path for biological evolution which has a forest in its midst, is preferred. A city in which nature is a host, not a guest.

Sometimes I forget that a river gathers the city to its banks; and that here, before miles of concrete was laid in its place, the forest quenched its thirst. Only when we can see to the bottom of our rivers again will we be able to see the truth of who we are.

From age one, mountains were my summer home. Now I walk forest trails and city streets with joints rubbing together as if trying to raise a youthful spark.

Ruction: Insurrection, disruption of a system. Thalassic: Inland sea as opposed to an ocean. G.G. Harpham: "Ethics does not solve problems, it structures them." I may as well be writing fiction!

Whenever she loosens her hair, the moon appears.

A thousand strands
of black black hair,
tangled, tangled—

tangled too,
my thoughts of love!

Whoever crucified Jesus didn’t know he would someday be seen as a god. He was jsut another rebel threatening their interpretative power. In retrospect, these are the ghost species--organisms that cannot or will not be allowed to survive on a planet with billions of people. Although they may continue to exist for decades, their extinction is certain. Apart from a few specimens in zoos or a laboratory-archived DNA sample, anyone may turn out to be a god. How many gods have died today?

Steven Katz argues that mystical experience is "shaped by prior linguistic influences such as that the lived experience conforms to a preexistent pattern that has been learned, then intended, and then actualized in the experiential reality of the mystic." This may be true in a theistic religion. But, for example, l learned from (Robert) Smithson that the experience I gained doing earth-moving with heavy equipment, shovels, trucks, loaders, graders and the like at (Miles City) Sand & Gravel (which I loathed and detested and assumed was the polar opposite of ‘art’ which I took as the ideal model of the anti-Montana paradise) could in fact be the brush and canvas of another art; by extension in Buddhism the mystic enters a Void in which there are no experiential attributes, no psychic projections. But in how one expresses the Void, not the experience itself, the function as opposed to the principle, Katz is correct. Functionally, the Japanese Zen Master eats rice not matzo.

In the Jewish tradition is the call to scholarship, even its pagan soul is in awe of stately trees, to wildflowers, and the creek’s chorus of ancient voices.

In his essay, "No Trees Please, We're Jewish," Andrew Furman quotes from Cynthia Ozick’s story, "The Pagan Rabbi," in which "the brilliant Rabbi Isaac Kornfield" commits suicide by hanging himself from a tree limb by his prayer shawl, after "Pan defeats Moses in his soul." (But Pan is Moses. The horns! The horns!)

Furman goes on to say that there is a Jewish principle of Baal Tashkhit, which is the preservation of nature, and applies "even during times of war." And that, "The Talmud even records that scholars were instructed to pray for the health of trees (Shabbat 67a)." He also laments that there is very little environmental writing in Jewish novels, which are mainly urban.

When it comes to haiku, can we follow the Japanese model? Like Japan, is our landscape also filled with historical, cultural, and spiritual markers? Or is America’s ethos a relentless cycle of creation/destruction, a loop, a knot, a neuroses studded with crosses?

The path is drawn
like a sword
from a sheath of mud.    

When I was still living in the desert, a friend told me that in Portland All things are full of gods’ means there is nowhere a god can’t be, no feature or aspect of nature that can’t reveal a god to us; but it doesn’t tell us which gods or goddesses will reveal themselves or when, or how moss grows even on the pavement.

The Buddha was enlightened by the morning star, a light surrounded by darkness.

Today a dog looked at me with eyes that knew that it’s a slave to its human master. It wanted me to know that it knows.

The body stops perhaps but something travels
                            out and beyond—
it is the creature's eyes.

Anthropocentrism is an embarrassing problem for nature writers, as the very fact that they can write opens a seemingly unbridgeable gap between them and the world they are writing about. We create the Other to validate the fantasy of how occult forces were instinctively driving Neanderthal people to surpass themselves, in their desire to resist the invasion of new methods and peoples who had not yet appeared, but whom they guessed would inevitably supplant ourselves. But only a path that crisscrosses other paths leads to somewhere intrinsically interesting. Each being is way of walking its own path.

A long walk
    that's all
             it is

Trapped in civilization, captured animals absorb the violence of the human world. The Stockholm Syndrome, in which "The captives begin to identify with their captors. At least at first this is a mechanism, based on the (often unconscious) idea that the captor will not hurt the captive if he is cooperative and even positively supportive. The captive seeks to win the favor of the captor in an almost childlike way."

Recognizing everything as synaptic. So that no matter where in the system you begin, you begin to identify with any part of the glacier and you can see the taint of man-made pollution as clear as day. Hundreds of meters of crystal-clear ice, going back through time, then you get to these dark rings appearing in an unlimited amount of variance, as no point is the whole system.

Deep Ecology, self-realization, a holistic metaphysics. "The success of all environmentalist efforts finally hinges not on some highly developed technology, or some arcane new science, but on ‘a state of mind’: on attitudes, feelings, images, narratives."

A friend tells me of a dream in which he’s talking to some people when the phone rings. He excuses himself, and wakes up to answer it. Something happening outside a dream that perfectly fits into it is very common, as if the dream adjusts itself to the waking world so fast and fluidly that the shift isn’t noticed. Or does the phone ring at the precise moment when the dream’s scenario can accommodate it?

"A thoroughly cosmological dimension."
                                           -Masao Abe