IN THE HILLS of JOSEPH
PART I: “The Windswept Soul”
PART II: “A Rivendell of Words”
PART III: “I Think I Am in Love”
PART V: “Passing the Buck”
PART V: “Notes from the Empty Quarter”
PS: “May We All Become Neighbors”
“Writers write. Even when they’re not writing.”
~ Kim Stafford, Fishtrap co-founder
By Douglas Imbrogno | July 17, 2012
I take a break in this, Part 3, of trying to describe what is really un-describable. At least for me, and maybe for you: The internal experience of a transformative event. Then, there is the transient ecstasy of the Great Workshop glow, which fades the days, weeks, months after you return. And there you are, a slug again, cruising bad news websites. Glimpsing videos, when you should be working hard like colleague Ken, say, over in the corner, always on the phone. But you’re a drone, appearing busy at your desk. Or a zombie awaiting the apocalypse, so you can eat your boss.
But I am quite well, thank you, hunkered in northeast Oregon for a few more days. I’m embarked on the liberating enterprise, here in Enterprise, of realizing I am free just to write, to ponder stuff. To take some pretty pictures and that is that. And not to have to arm-wrestle the pixies, imps and bogies of the computer and the upload, who like to bollix things up. To make things go all F.U.B.A.R. on you, just to watch your head explode. For fun. Or drive you deeper into drink or weed. Or worse, like, say, voting for Mitt Romney. (Sorry, if you drank the hate-the-president Kool-aid and now are out of here. Goodbye. Be well! Maybe we can talk about another topic? Like how we both adore the Decemberists? I’ll buy the beer. Text me.)
Anyhow, I spend today, post-Fishtrap, mixing album cuts for a forthcoming CD for my trio, The BrotherSisters, with my Fifth Beatle, Bob. Really, he is the Man. My first album was a full-bore collaboration and would not exist but for his ears and skill. Would you like to hear a cut or two, even buy the thing when it is done? Stay tuned. The website needs updating and I hope to get to it on my return, album cuts in hand. (Then maybe, Julie, we can launch at last the gift of that Facebook band page — I’ve not forgotten.)
It’s 10:16 p.m. here in Oregon and I’m just back from driving the rain-swept backroads of Joseph. Just to clear my head after sitting in the studio the better part of today. We output two full songs. I load them in my iPhone, grab some headphones and head out. First, I drive a random road as sun sinks into the West, flaming up the sky over Wallowa County farmlands. On the sky’s eastern side, the Wallowa Mountains stand wreathed in great, grey sheets of rain and sworls of cloud the color of blue steel. In fields rise neat rectangles of hay (or is it timothy? Or what? Sorry, I was raised on “Gunsmoke,” not on live horses and fields of steamy manure.) I point my car down a long, straight road, heading toward the jagged peaks. The sky fractures! Cracked yellow glass of lightning dresses up the sky for one long second. I would, were I able, drive straight into the highest of the peaks ahead, to that notch where snow sits upon a single peak as on a glacier, its head white as the old man I’ll be not too many years from now. Why didn’t someone tell me of Oregon before? (Insert smiley face emoticon here …) I think I am in love.
“Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
Somewhere, up there in those hills is a tiny Buddhist temple, manned — I should say ‘womaned‘ — by two Soto Zen Buddhist priests. Bob took me for a visit my first Sunday here. In their brown robes and close-cropped hair, they came to hear the evening readings by Fishtrap’s leading writers. They are nice people. We drove up Hurricane Creek Road to their little temple, former vacation home turned into a pocket-Buddhist haven, halfway up the mountain. We sat in meditation, Zen-style, facing the wall. Then, a wooden CLAP! And we unfold and walk in one continuous meditative circle about the tiny altar room. Afterwards, a Dharma talk on compassion as we nibble tasty cranberry scones and fresh cherries.
Outside, I walk the grounds and meet a reclining Buddha, framed by snowy distant peaks. Since every Buddha posture signifies, the reclining Buddha, if his hand supports his head, is just resting. Even resting, there is a lesson here. The story goes a giant, by name of Asurindarahu, wished to see the Buddha, but did not wish to bow before him. So, the Buddha appeared larger than the giant while laying down. Then, he showed him all the heavenly figures who were larger than the giant. And, so, humbled him. (There are many, often huge, reclining Buddhas around the world. And ever-helpful Google lets you know, there is a strain of marijuana by that name. Hmm …) If the right arm of the reclining Buddha lays by his side, and his head is down, that signifies the Buddha has passed on, as he did at age 80, and entered into paranibbana. Beyond all suffering. A good place to be.
“You have to do it because you have to do it.”
~ Luis Alberto Urrea
I exit the farmlands. Return to the main road to downtown Joseph as cold rain pelts the town and the sky turns purple-black with coming night. Mutiny Brewing is still open. Soon, I’m seated with a glass of their home-brewed, ice-cold Pi Dog Porter, whose roasted malt brew tastes like cold, sweet coffee. A good taste. I put on the headphones and listen to the day’s work in the studio. That, too, is — excuse me for getting all Hemingway on you – good. One is a song titled “Damn the Torpedoes,” (think “Space Oddity” meets indie folk-rock). It’s a keynote tune for a crazy-quilt book I’m writing and multimedia web project, called “Saint Stephen’s Dream: A Space Opera.”
I hope you won’t flee my work when I try to describe this project. But I grew up on sprawling science fiction epics: “Cities in Flight,” Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy, even, in its own way, Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles,” a series of linked short stories. I fear the contemporary genre-ghetto of sci-fi and have begun it dub it ‘speculative fiction.‘ Or, at the least, literary science fiction. It is also a kind of Buddhistic eco-fable, set in West Virginia, Venice, and a holigraphic Nueva Venezia in low-Earth orbit, after the Ten Thousand Ships have fled a sickened Earth, which has gone past its tipping point. The space opera will be matched, online and in club performances with original songs and video. Here’s a sample video draft excerpt, although this is not the most up-to-date soundtrack. For that is what I’ve mixed here in Oregon with Bob, and listened to while drinking Mutiny porter as rain pelted eastern Oregon. And so, goodnight.
IN THE HILLS of JOSEPH
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