the blue mountains march out of the sea

“On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between…interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world…

“…In the country one’s solitude is geographical–one is altogether outside society, so solitude has a sensible geographical explanation, and there is a kind of communion with the nonhuman. In the city, one is alone because the world is made up of strangers…”

(Rebecca Solnit)

We had a long layover in Seattle coming home from Ohio via Oregon, and took the train downtown from the airport for Indian food and some aimless wandering, which i’m finding less enjoyable as i get older and perhaps only partly because whenever i’m wandering in cities i end up buying books, which i then have to carry around for the remainder of the wandering. I bought a book of Anna Akhmatova’s poetry and Leslie Marmon Silko’s memoir, and we had an overpriced ginger beer just outside Pike St. Market, because it was something concrete and identifiable that i remembered from February in the rows of things to eat and buy. c bought socks at one of the gear stores that isn’t REI because he hadn’t done laundry and airport security lines were getting embarrassing, and i remembered when i was 20 and a guy conned me into something weird that i never understood by telling me some story about his wife having a baby and him losing his wallet and all he needed was for me to buy him socks at the Seattle REI and he was gonna do something to repay me, which never happened, of course, but somehow it put me into a good mood to walk into REI with this (to everyone else) clearly crazy man and buy him socks, getting weird looks from the beautiful Seattle REI people. So that made it worth it, even if, somehow, i lost 40 bucks in that deal.

I’d been reading Solnit’s Wanderlust, which seemed appropriate given the amount of time on the O-state trip we spent sitting, on couches, restaurant chairs, plane seats, car seats. After eating as much as we wanted to eat and failing to find anything else of interest in downtown Seattle (i looked longingly at the Ferris wheel. c didn’t.) we returned to the airport with hours to spare, and i intended to write something then about walking, and Solnit’s book (worthwhile if, like me, you have a tendency to intellectualize the actions of the body rather than turn to the body, but not quite as worthwhile as i’d hoped), but i can’t think in airports anymore, maybe like i can’t wander aimlessly in cities without getting irritable. Solnit speculates that it’s better done alone. She’s probably right. So i’m trying it now, and i’ve finished the book and read 2 others since, and most of my walking has been up and down the airstrip, in moonlight, with a purpose, and very little to interrupt me.

We stopped for less time than the little time we’d planned in Chicago to see Ammie, and on a walk to the lakeshore saw where the lake had dressed all the winter plants in ice, and they looked like teeth or wings or sometimes just plant-shaped ice.

In Ohio, we walked in the cemetery, and cousin Elena and i put a knit mushroom on our great-grandparents’ 3-way headstone, and then walked back. I wrote an essay in the years since i was last in Ohio that, now that i’ve gotten it down, seems like my official thoughts on the cemetery, and doing weird silly shit is all that’s left now that i’ve worked out my thoughts on the caskets and the relatives (Warrantied. Mostly unremarkable.) We had to walk fast to get back to grandma’s in time for the next scheduled sitting event, so i didn’t have time to show the 4 others my other half-remembered landmarks (the big mausoleum. The little Civil War headstones, worn rectangles with rounded tops, tilted like spruce trees).

In Oregon, we walked to beaches, through the redwoods (this was California, technically) and barefoot on the sand dunes in cold rain. I was poorly dressed, for the most part. On the beaches, i looked for dead things, and found what might have been a seal femur that i gave to some people digging through the driftwood with buckets and more focus than i had, since i couldn’t justify traveling with a femur, what with all the books. On another beach, a little Superman action figure with his right foot missing and a red cape the same size and shape as the scapula of something i found in the same pile. Arches of styrofoam particles marked the tidelines in a way i didn’t remember from past beach walks, and dead birds. Golf balls. So many golf balls. Dead things. On one beach, a weird amount of shoes. I wonder about the tsunami in Japan, and other things i don’t really understand well enough to know if they have anything to do with anything, even if being on foot does mean you’re living in the whole world. My feet went numb on the beach beyond the sand dune trail, and on that beach there were bottles–empty glass liquor bottles mostly–and plovers. I don’t know why so many bottles. The plovers nest there. I put my wet shoes on for the walk back.

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