Carry My Body

Food running low. The hunter prays for a kill as he reaches into the dusty cabinet for his last handful of oats before the sun sends the shadows scattering to hide behind every rock and tree they can find. Out the window in the pre-dawn light he sees movement, but when he looks intently there is nothing. Just the grassy flat leading to the precipice over the sea.

But he can’t shake the feeling he’s being watched. And he is. I watched him like a ghost all afternoon as I painted these crumbling remains of his cabin. I watched him bumbling about inside while waiting out the days of rain. Talking to his horse. Carrying the bodies of the freshly dead in the afternoons. Drinking himself stupid under the moons.

Separated by nothing but 30 paces and time, he saw me once or twice and muttered something to himself. The third time he threw a rock with a yell. His aim was good. It passed straight through my chest.

When the painting was finished I packed up my gear while he gathered up his belongings and tucked things here and there into his saddlebags. When we were both ready, he led his horse toward the spot where I stood, nearly looking me in the eye, but in a distant way. He stopped and turned, practically standing in my shoes, and looked back at the cabin one more time. But this time he saw it through my eyes as the earth reclaimed it’s walls and floors, timbers and beams. What was built for man, was now a palace for squirrels and was soon to be nothing but a high patch of ground for the morning shadows to hide behind.

As we both stood there, I watched his memories scatter in the wind. His heart hung in tatters, like a prayer flag on the barbed wire fence, and he let the rest of himself blow away entirely, leaving me there alone with his horse’s reins in my shaky hands. I’m no horse rider. It was all I could do just to mount the beast, but it knew the way, and it would carry my body home.

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Another Barb on the Wire

3 days. One family of 5. One campsite. 2 children lost (only temporarily). 7 miles hiked. 6 paintings completed. 3 paintings I wanted to paint but was thwarted by barbed wire. 1 global pandemic making things awkward. One long poem to show for it all...

I. Going Nowhere

Another Barb on the Wire
Hours to days
To months and soon years
We sit between these walls
Going nowhere
Trapped in the microscope
The giant eye upon us
They locked us down
We loaded the van
A quick escape
Our desire
Another barb on the wire

II. Fair Wages

Stretching the legs
The will to live
Denied by the barrel
Of loaded guns
Pay to play
All the way
To the cemetery
A reminder that in this life
We all receive
The same fair wages
Both the great and the small
The honest and the liar
Each another barb on the wire

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Mourning and Remembrance

By day they theorize, philosophize, and lay their eyes
On this predicament
From old lawn chairs
Behind a makeshift barrier of plastic tape

By night they await the higher tide
Under the spotlight
Searching for answers
But generating none

Once a proud vessel
Named for nobility
Now on the rocks without the gin
Or perhaps because of it if the wind spoke truly

Each morning brings a new revelation
Coffee and binoculars the psychoactive agents
Of this daily vision quest

She is a solar eclipse
Her shining brightness now darkened
By the lesser light

Shucked like an oyster
Removed from her shell of open water
She now sits waiting for the ocean to swallow her hull

The heiress watches on
A mix of rage and longing
As she carves an homage of color
To the one she once knew

All the while they watched this maiden work
And no one said a word

It is no different with you or I
While our voyages may end differently
Still every voyage must end
And we can only hope there is
A daughter by our side
To mourn and remember us when our day arrives

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Sweet Cherries for Sale

One hot afternoon I was digging a roadside view on the coast beside a nearby produce stand’s sign announcing "Sweet Cherries for Sale" and had just gotten set up when the cherry slinger walked up and told me I'd have to move.

He said I was blocking his Sweet Cherries sign. I wasn't, but I could see how from over at his stand it might look that way. I began to tell him about my road trip and how far I’d traveled to paint this spot, which he seemed to immediately take as a challenge and interrupted to inform me bluntly that he'd driven all the way from Modesto... Ouch, he got me there.

And furthermore, he informed me that he had a permit to set up there, and even furthermore that since he was there first there was no point finding a mutually beneficial solution.

He was real good at cussing too. His parting shot was

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More than Wind

I had just finished a piece from the other side of this hill looking up the coast to the north. As I painted that one, what started as a windless day quickly changed. The whitecaps had enveloped every piece of water in sight, inside the kelp, around the headlands, pretty much game over for painting outdoors.

But before leaving, I wanted to see the view from the other parts of the hill and when I looked out over this side, I saw this painting. Right then, right there. The warm iceplant in the foreground, the cool windcapped sea, the distant fog bank, all of it.

I knew I wanted to paint it, but I was fighting a stubborn cold, and after wrestling my previous painting to completion in the wind, I was rather beat. It’s a character flaw I’ll be the first to admit- I am rather lazy. I look for reasons to not do things. And today there were about 35 knots of reasons howling around this mountain by the sea.

What to do? Come back another day? But there was plenty of daylight still left. The surf wouldn’t be good anywhere in this wind, so it’s not like that was an option worth considering. What else was there to do?

But still, nothing in me wanted to push on at the moment. I headed back down the hill to the van to consider my options.

Now, I’m not too good at religion, but still I often talk to God and believe God speaks to us as well. Call me nuts. It’s all good. You may be right. I asked God what I should do, unsure if it was a good idea to push myself back up the hill and keep working. The answer wasn’t an audible voice, but it was clear all the same, it was a thought that really did not seem my own...

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Welcome Home

One night while out on the road, I stepped into a small bar in an even smaller town to sip a beer and charge my dead phone.

Open mic night was raging for a handful of locals and passer-throughs like myself.

Nursing my beer in the corner by the pool table (only spot near an outlet), and watching a few Mexican fellows play their game, I must have looked a bit too interested because next thing I knew a local had me lined up to shoot a game with him. He chose a poor opponent, I nearly didn't sink a single shot even after he cleared his from the table.

We got to chatting a bit and I mentioned I'm down from Humboldt, and he says he knows the guy that painted the Humboldt Surf Company sign years ago when they were on the plaza up there. I'm tripping out a bit because he doesn’t even seem slightly familiar to me, but he described the sign I painted pretty well.

At one point he turns to me and for some reason says...

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Ephemeral Records

At high tide that rock with the trees on it is an island, but at low tide you can walk right out to it. Over 20 years ago I ventured out to it with a friend, our minds set on climbing up to the top of it.

Except neither she nor I were the climbing types, we were just a couple of wide-eyed college kids, checking out this great big world that we were supposed to make sense of real soon.

We approached the base and made our way to the north, then to the south then back again, looking for some non-death-inducing route up the vertical side. After a few false starts, we surrendered and made our way back to the beach.

As soon as we reached the sand, we looked back and saw a couple of people climbing down off the rock. Their fluid movements made their descent look effortless. As we stood there watching their route, we realized it was a young couple, not much older than us, who were oddly... not really wearing any clothes?

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