Look at how red that star is. Oh, I know, my pillowcase was soaking wet. Did you just text me? I never use the hand dryer. You know that door makes a lot of noise when it bangs shut, right? I don’t have any idea what time it is. The insects are happy. I can see Orion’s belt now. Can you imagine coming out here before the road was paved? I don’t know if those people are just getting up or if they never even went to sleep. The river’s gonna feel good tomorrow. Why do you have that rubber band around your wrist? It is not possible to drink enough water. Is your dog dreaming in his sleep?
Man, where’d you find all that kindling? If you saw Orion’s belt that high above the horizon in the middle of September it had to be two a.m. Yeah, I had to wear ear plugs. Can kayaks leave a wake? Something absconded with the chips last night. What’s this spongy stuff? That guy slept in his van. I dreamt about box fans. What time are they picking us up? You can’t use that kind of pen on these notebooks. If it rains on your birthday that’s good luck, right? Those look like chigger bites to me. Almost nobody was wearing a mask. If you saw a reddish star that bright it was probably just Mars. It’ll go back up eventually. That fire’s going good now. Of course I brushed my teeth. Did you hear those ducks going at it in the middle of the night? Well, I’m supposed to wear a biteguard. It was worse inside the tent, believe me. I gargle if I can. Dogs actually shed a lot this time of the year. The whole thing was so stupid. Is he just going to keep going back and forth like that? Oh, that’s a cute mask. It’s amazing those things float. I don’t know, I think it’ll be fun. That was definitely an owl. What’s that movie where they all scramble like hell to get ready for the airport? You’re gonna have to get somebody back out here to take some photos. Hey, how easy is it to tear these things in two? Holler if you want a muffin. Did water get in there? Well, I was looking for my headlamp but it was one of those things where I needed my headlamp to find it. I’m in fine fiddle with an hour to spare. Those clouds do look pretty thick over there. I always travel with a couple of little soaps. Eh, I’ll sleep on the river...
This short prose poem continues. Thanks for reading...
The weather forecasts are wonk. Something to do with a sharp decrease in the number of airplanes in the air. It wasn’t forecast to rain today. But it has rained, and not just a few drops. My wife and I console each other with talk of silver linings. The air quality is improving, just ask the stars.
Here in St. Louis, as March slogs on, the rain has been a cloying companion during days of isolation. I can’t recall going on a walk when I didn’t have to watch out for puddles and dreck as the dog Hugo and I walked in our desultory fashion, neither one of us leading the way. This month hasn’t been atypical in its raininess but I suspect the total rainfall is at the upper end of its historical range.
If only weather were the wackiest aspect of March 2020....
The essay continues...
If, like me, you’re starting to climb the walls during this coronavirus lockdown, you’re also asking yourself: what can I do, within these newly instituted, claustrophobic confines that doesn’t run afoul of the Stay-at-Home order? How can I look after my own mental health, the quality of which has for years depended on being able to locate myself as needed in wide, open spaces?
Under the Order, residents of the county are still allowed to go for a walk in public parks. Indeed, the County Executive has urged operators of public parks—presumably he is speaking to municipalities such as my own, University City—to keep their parks open. To console myself, I think about all of the county’s various parks remaining open. Whether it has been for the purpose of playing disc golf, going for a run, or taking my dog Hugo for a walk, I have spent a lot of time in the parks of University City and St. Louis County over the past decade. One of the parks nearest to me, which I have come to appreciate despite its faults, is University City’s Heman Park.
Continue with this essay about Heman Park...
Left Tucumcari, New Mexico at 8:40. The woman at the Best Western when I checked out says, "You look like you could use more sleep." Oh, thanks! What a nice thing for you to say. Yeah, I could have used some more sleep. But other guests stirring early, doors clanging, and then someone freaking out when a cat jumped out of the hallway trash can meant it was time for me to get out of bed. That and needing to drive another eight hours today.
I'm on U.S. Highway 54 headed east. This highway takes me all the way to Wichita. Land is mostly flat. Ranch land. Cattle grazing. Mesas in the distance, to the west. Lots of Aermotors. I've realized that's a trademarked name for the old-style windmills.
Lots of empty buildings here. There were lots of them in Tucumcari, too. That town is hollowed out. Abandoned homes. I suppose Tucumcari had its day. Post World War II. Car culture. Route 66. Before passenger air travel proliferated...
The second and final part of the travelogue continues here...
In eastern Butler County the fields opened up, took on the wispy gold of uncut hay. Not long after that hills appeared. I could see the outcome of geological events, the hint of a rock facade where the road cut through. But the grass didn't mind the hills and it ran long and uncut up and down the slopes still. A valley appeared, a vantage, a vista. I thought of some of that scene from Dances With Wolves where they creep up to a crest and look down to see a herd of buffalo grazing in peace.
It would've been a good place to stop but I was going 75 and I was only an hour into the drive. It's a spot to think about, for another. A spot worth reaching over into the glove compartment and pulling out this notebook for, an emergency notebook, never been written in before, the two notebooks I did bring secure in my bag.
I'm east of Wichita, KS on U.S. Highway 54, where Butler County ends and Greenwood County begins. Hay, cow ponds, the cattle so dark against the golden light of the field, dark against the blue of the sky, against the shapely hills.
FDR had some sort of windbreak tree-planting program. A shelterbelt. I never gave much thought to windbreaks, to trees as a line against the wind. This tree I keep seeing, that is so prevalent, must have been one of the trees of choice for the shelterbelt planting. It's often got a lopsided crown and most of the time its trunk splits into two not far from the ground, a couple of feet, maybe less. This tree, whatever it is, is not at Farm. It's a Dust Bowl thing. Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, northeastern New Mexico.
Continue with Part One of this travelogue...
1. They said
Would be visible
In June but I
Never saw them
Because I never
2. Last weekend,
final day of June.
I was walking Hugo
when I noticed a misfit
Star piggybacking Scorpius. I
thought: that doesn't
Look right. Could that be—
Continue with this poem...
I. Prologue: Illinois Itinerants.
Itinerant. Now there's a good word I don't use, have never used, to my recollection. It means "passing about a country". That's the adjective, as in "itinerant laborer" or "itinerant preacher". But there's also a noun version: "one who travels from place to place".
And I'm thinking this might be fitting for us as we head to Chicago tomorrow, knowing the route I'm looking at taking, off-highway, through all those random little Illinois farm towns, Raymond and Stonington; Blue Mound and Boody; Pontiac and Ransom...
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