False Summits

Leading up through the scree past where the trees tend to stop. No soil for roots to spread out under like expanding hands and fingers, implacably spreading until the desired balance is achieved. A deliberate balance between sunlight and cool shade. Letting an owl perch and invade the dreams of a young person like myself. A notion so easily brushed off by a temp. Dream or real, I heard an owl hooting outside my window. Woke to the blaring sunlight of morning. Eyes were open as I contemplated the noise of trains in the distance preferably echoing over the Puget Sound under the Narrows from Titlow to Bridgeview or back and forth from the old sea-filled glacial ravine – geography/geology majors, tell me all of my misconceptions and let’s grow into the eons of clay together, discarding brine for clarity and aquifer.

Using nature words. That’s what I’m doing. Why now if I have no particular story to tell? It is an excuse to rip through novels and encyclopedias to engrain a cursory sense of the content for psychological reshuffling like a casino clerk of preconceptions and beloved myths we keep, then the adequate destruction of the old self, leveled by bulldozers with names like “sudden realization of past falsehood” nicknamed “new truth” or “the eraser of your old god” or “new god.” I am certain I haven’t written something like that last sentence before, the hyperawareness of what I’m writing is hindering the sheer intellectual speed, the conversion rate, at which this machine is operating. This machine is the macbook keyboard operated by my collapsing thoughts as mediated through my silty fingertips. There are other levels of mediation before thought and typed word: too much to go through and think about currently. There is music playing, namely, which often distracts me from whatever “pure thought” may have occurred. This is a silly notion. I’m hearing violin swells in harmony with clean, lightly echoing guitar melodies, of single plucked notes, a droning and swirling organ tone that swirls off tempo with the song, starts with this droning plateau and warbling vocals, then the melody I mentioned plus a drumset softly hit with mallets, swelling on the cymbals when the three part vocal harmonies kick in. A lyric that stood out suddenly, “death is a force, not a man on a horse” (Dry The River).

This kind of distraction is okay – only issue is that it keeps this translating machine merely into the present here and now rather than mulling over the events of my day and my yesterday and a few days before that: painfully unrecorded days. An unrecorded day is a day lived but hard to remember.

I may have seen two corpses receiving medical attention on the highway (I-5 northbound out of Renton) earlier this evening. “At least the sky is still light,” I thought strangely. Maybe heaven and hell is only determined by the angle of incidence of the sun on your body as it writhes and gasps for the last holy words from a parched tongue in a language never written or spoken, the language of a totally thoughtless and indifferent and mysterious nature. Die out in the desert of exposure. You go to the gates. “Suddenly as I feel as though I could find heaven in all directions.” And there you receive all the green iced teas, popsicles, water tankards, crisp beer, the feeling of heavenly satisfaction of a primordial desire (ie: thirst). All the dirty chai teas your heart could possibly desire. It will no longer attack you as it did down there in the twilight on the highway.

On Mt. Si there is a so-called ‘Haystack Scramble’ that represents the real summit, the highest incidence, in elevation, of concentrated rocky outcropping on the whole huge burial mound of the past landscape. The “false summit” is the rocky, wonderful, lower section with many seats and views of Mt. Rainier, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, the I-90, millions of trees, foothills of the Cascades, and to the west, the barcode skyrises of Bellevue and then Seattle, weltering off into a misty grey oblivion at the vague blue edge of the Sound and the mighty Olympics as nearly impossible to distinguish from the clouds surrounding them. This false summit offers quite a lot to take in, but I heard a group of young men talking about how if they don’t reach the actual summit they are pussies. They fail at some macho competitive race if they stay at level elevation with meditating shirtless me. They must defeat me in my endurance and my wherewithal to give up mustn’t overtake them. They will lose the girl if they do not prove their worth: peacocks and trailblazers. Eroding the hillsides until all the trees fall.

I thought also that a college degree, in a sense, is a false summit. There is an indication of “having learned all” based on the document, laminated, with an ink-quill signature in blood by the president of the university, the seal of approval, of “yes, he has learned enough of that (shit)” and with a nudge of the polished dress shoe “now get out there and be somebody!” but in the same breath “NEXT.” So I am cast off and immediately replaced, though obviously my obscure little niche in the system disappears for good. This is probably a biological benefit for the survival of the university as a technical research institute, duping out-of-state-tuitioners with the cast out lure of “look at this extensive list of our celebrity graduates.”

False summits. There are higher rock faces to climb, always. Greater panoramic views (and a sense of being perched like a hawk over the ridiculous, degenerate, quitters resting below). Maybe the young men felt entitlement? Maybe I am a coward to believe in the magical moment of the false summit, of the desire path to extend out into the open ocean and float and to know I would float. Seven words to one thousand. Keep climbing.

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