Up the Mountain, Down the Mountain
Walking the side of a mountain after a thunderstorm, I have never seen the high desert so green. As the sun disrobes from a block of gray clouds, wet leaves preen in the returning light.
Yet to even think the word “green” at this moment feels a lie, a stunted word to cover a universe of throbbing photosynthetic bursts, each deserving of its own word, in need of new libraries and temples of words.
I almost forget how to think for a whole hour—or that thing we call thinking, a compulsive recitation of pasts and futures and credit card balances. I almost forget, or is it remember, swept into this universe of beings with other preoccupations so much more interesting than my own. I feel myself a stupid infant here, stumbling along in thin skin among ancestors that calmly absorb each raindrop and plunge deeper: and for a moment I can feel the triumphant thrust of those roots.
The wind sends cascades of latent raindrops onto my head and soaking into the fabric my shoes, those shoes made of materials I cannot name, knowing not where they came from or where they will go. Nor do I know the names of most of the relatives I pass here, a consequence of spending most hours locked in a monoculture of human thoughts and human deeds and human offenses.
But they do not shove me out; it’s not in the nature of a plant to be stingy, this much I know. Even to these unseeing eyes they show off each impossible curl, whispering my dulled senses back to feeling, speaking the sleeping animal within me awake.
I forget several human lies and I remember the original truth: in this exchange we name carbon for oxygen there is a deeper bond that can never be entirely muted from knowing. In one popular story they say God breathed into Adam, a strange cover for this superior miracle in which the plants breathed into and gave us life. This afternoon my cells remember, the very DNA seeming to coil anew in pure gratitude, resinging its place in an ancient chorus, a small note in a song that preceded and will surely continue us.
Caught up in that ancient melody, I almost forget the thing called thinking. Almost.
After a time I crawl back into a metal beast burning gasoline in its belly and go back down the mountain. For a time it stays with me, the knowing of the rightness of it all, the feeling of myself as a small organism in a universal web, the web which is my home.
But then there are parking meters and intersections and strangers … the shock of strangers in their strangeness, the strangeness I only feel in presence of my own species, which is the strangest thing of all. The men I pass look at me in a certain way and all the subtle senses that had just been aflame begin to shut down one by one, like a line of switches inside me firmly pressed down.
I am back in a world of rectangles, and I have never been so aware of how unlovely it is, a temple built via the sinew and blood of a million species just to worship money, that god made in the image of man, that god that breathes through an unholy spirit called cement. This cement didn’t grow, it didn’t even come from here, and as if in its own silent revolt it is inclined to tear and bubble, always needing to be smothered and smothered over again. I can’t remember why I’m here or what I do here; I can’t remember why I must come down the mountain and rejoin this sad story of money and cement … I only know that long ago they took away my knowing of how to live outside it.
In the metal beast I listen to a podcast about psychedelic plants, but it isn’t for knowledge: it is a desperate attempt to regain the feeling of being at home in the web. But the more furiosly I grasp at the thread, the further it unravels.
I am back down the mountain now, in a rectangular room looking at pictures of the mountain I took on this thing called an I-phone, another rectangle made through some bad magic. The pictures are rectangles and reflect nothing of myself in the web, the feeling of my DNA coiling around my own center.
My ancestors are buried far from here, across different lands and across oceans. The place I call home is rented out by the month, with money as profits for a man I will never meet. When I look out the window I see flourescent signs from a strip mall positively glaring at me, as if they too resent being left on, wanting an evening’s respite from their own light. When I open the window I hear the unhappy roar of more metals beasts … the metal beasts that seem to breed in silent cement lots, annually producing what they call another “generation.” I can’t remember why we live like this, but I also can’t remember what came before.
I am back down the mountain now, in a rectangular building with its own letters and numbers: if I typed those digits into this cobalt-laden rectangle people across the world could pull up its latitude and longitude—with pictures!—on Google Maps, just like that. … Right here I am, so tirelessly chronicled and counted, but then I have no idea where I am at all.