I’m not sure if many of you are familiar with Gary Snyder— UC Davis emeritus professor, Kerouac’s inspiration for the Dharma Bums protagonist? His collection of poems The Back Country and I are old friends. My copy is taped together at the spine, dog-eared, and loved. Loved like the velveteen rabbit who became real, those poems seeped into my being and became a part of my history.
Hatch is a character mentioned only once in Snyder poetry and I dream of him like some folks dream of loved ones. I dream of Hatch. He arrives usually in Fall but makes sporadic appearances throughout the year, and I half expect, one day, Hatch will drop down next to me for real and we’ll start-up a mischievous banter and I’ll have found him for sure.
It’s when Wildlands is quiet, late at night, that Snyder poems come to mind. I can’t help but run images through my head, mixed with his poems, and typically accompanied by music. Nada Surf’s Blonde on Blonde, Neil Young’s Cortez from Live Rust, My Morning Jacket’s Golden— on and on. His poems, those melodies, dogs snoring, cat stretched out on the sofa, long day of traveling, images I didn’t record on the side of the road, relaxing in the home I’d searched for—I receive something I’d not known I’d wanted or that I’d lost or misplaced—
What’s so striking about his work? Well, he writes about some places I’ve been but honestly, it was December at Yase that snagged me when I was nineteen. Living in Kent, Ohio, wandering around the stacks of the KSU library, whatever inspired me to open an anthology, flip a few pages, and read that poem—I was changed forever.
I thought about that poem as I grew older and began wandering the country, looking for home. Here in California, eight years later, I picked up The Back Country in a bookstore in Santa Barbara. Inside, I found Four Poems for Robin—of which December at Yase is the last poem. My heart raced and I smiled ruefully.
A few months later, I began living out of hotels down in the lower Colorado desert, working on a fiber job in the middle of nowhere. One morning around Christmas time, I was reading Snyder, sitting atop a ridge in the Chocolates, watching the sun rise, pondering why I’d roamed so far away from my community and potential life partners. I’d made a choice—them for those big sky days.
That’s when I found the Hatch poem; honestly, life hasn’t been the same since. Being a nomad, I wavered back and forth between two world views— thriving on my freedom to explore without ties and an unearthly desire to find home. It was after reading it that I wrote this—
It’s useless to tame a nomad; they will only scratch and kick
from the inside out, hurting themselves and those they only long to love.
Over the years, as I wandered, I never felt lost with my copy of Back Country nearby. I suppose it’s his voice, the lilt—simple, direct, comforting. His poetry told me I wasn’t the first (and wouldn’t be the last) to wander about, conflicted. Not all who wander are lost.
Now, eight more years on, I’ve tucked my nomadism into my pocket and rely on Wildlands’ multiple sleeping quarters—the living room, the media room, up in the art studio, and sometimes out in the hammock—to help scratch the itch when it arises. I’ve never felt more at home than I do here. Yet, I can’t honestly say that I couldn’t be persuaded to trade this for the freedom of those big sky days. Starting off cross-country last December, snow on the road, tall mountains in the distance— my heart lurched and the further I drove, the more Wildlands became a memory, a fairy tale of sorts.
Snyder reminds me that we have many, many lives, wrapped up in this one, if we choose it to be so. I think about the multi-lives I’ve lived over the last 37 years. No one would have placed me here, including myself. Currently, I have this grand little life and while I can’t truly imagine it being any different, I know one day, it will be, and I’ll look back upon my Wildlands’ days and wonder how it was I stayed so long…
Early October marks six years I’ve lived at Wildlands. That’s the longest I’ve lived in the same dwelling. I’ve been in CA for 11 years; the longest I’ve lived in any state. One day, I’ll tell the stories of Sacramento, this community of friends—smile, and recall that each Fall, I waited for the world to change by not changing, thus changing me. And onward we go…
What am I going on about? Hmmm, not real sure, except it’s late and I’m thinking about the fig tree in the back, ripe with fruit. I’m thinking about Hatch, a hand rolled cigarette, and homemade fig newtons. Sleep well, dream better.
I had a long, terrible day, far from home, surrounded by insensitive and frustrating coworkers, seemingly stuck in never-ending traffic. HOWEVER, on the way home, sitting in deadlock traffic outside of Davis, a car in the lane next to me honked. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard my name— I look over and there is my friend Karha in the lane next to me, smiling and blowing kisses.
I got into Sacto, ran and few errands, sat outside the Coffee Garden chatting with a man who intrigues me (long story), and then, finally, made it home to Wildlands. Free Will Astrology was waiting for me in my email inbox. I read it and grinned ear to ear.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20):
You probably get emails that close like this: “Sent from my iPhone.” Maybe you even deliver emails like that yourself. Keep that detail in mind while I tell you the dream I had last night. In the dream, all of my Gemini friends had sent me poignant emails. Every one of them said something like, “I’ve got to get back to where I started from” or “There’s something really important that I’ve got to do, but I can’t remember what it is” or “I hear a voice calling my name but I don’t know who it is or where it’s coming from.” And each of their emails ended like this: “Sent from my iSoul.” I suspect my dream is in perfect accordance with your astrological omens, Gemini. It’s time to go home, in every sense of the word.