Upriver only a few fields away from where I used to swim in her who made my hair thicker with mermaid clumps of salt than the Mamas Pacific or Atlantic ever left me–I went back to the Chester, this year. It was May.
I had left for good in 2008 but have certainly been back to Chestertown since a share of times.
This year I went back to be a member of the community there.
Chester River, May 2018
A community I was threaded into, in ways that happen only by voice and sight day after day of the same hearts of the same humans, by voice and sight of the same hearts of the same ten different kinds of buoyant summer green that make up the ten thousand secret brambled edged forests walls specific to a place–the special upper bay highland heart that easily whispers to anyone willing to hear the coded whisper words of long ago still in that land–the way community because of Chestertown is a word for me all about the day after day exposure to the dazzling mundane of sameness.
The sweetness of living life. How real community threads you forever to something meaningful, because of how it becomes forever part of inside-you.
I had to leave there to understand the value of this. Which brings me back to what it looked like, in 2004, the first time I did.
It was the final Harvest moon the night we first slept in the trailer on the Alsea, our new home. We is me and my partner in 2004 (you have to read the last post to catch up on this.) The final harvest moon fell on my lucky number that year, October 28.
The night I had a massive meltdown.
On the brown sign trip that landed me there on the central coast, I had also been running from the demon of addiction even though it had been four years since I’d drank or used. The first time I ever cut a friend off because their using had gotten really bad happened with someone I’d met in geometry when I was 14. We carpooled sometimes together with a mutual friend, our first to have her license, and later when we were sophomores, we’d stay after school to get tutored and smoke cigarettes in the boys room. He always told me when someone wrote anything about me on the wall in there and more than once wrote stuff back about different guys on my behalf. These were the days before we ever tried drugs. He ended up killing himself instead of going to prison in 2003 when we were 26. He was looking at pictures of us when he did.
I had a wicked time with that.
A recovery club is church for the fellow who’s been to hell here on earth and wishes to make it all the way back before he actually leaves here for good. The club on the central Oregon coast that first received me had three vets and a biker dressed like a vet sitting around a table when I first walked in, the room so thick with cigarette smoke that the whole night still sits clouded at the edges of my memory like a scrap of brought back dream.
I walked into a room in that club and sat down with those all-in-cammy-green all-long-hair guys, and told them about my homie and how his suicide was chasing me down. It was just me and them in the whole place. I didn’t know enough about addiction then to know how really real this actually was, how suicide from drugs was eating on my soul, only that my love and partner back at home in our single wide didn’t deserve me acting it out on him. And those actual war vets–Vietnam era vets, accustomed to not receiving respect in ways I’ve seen change since the decade and a half that’s passed since then–artilleried back at me story after story of death and loss, grime and grit.
Addiction. As I’ve said before. One hell of a wicked fuckn war. I’d gone to the club that night because in the midst of said meltdown, I bargained with Life to help me feel sane again by promising that I’d ask the first woman I saw there three different times to become my mentor.
Now My Amy (my first recovery mentee, who first rooted me and always does back again to my community in Chestertown) and me often used to joke about how the person sitting across from you in one of those club rooms is the reflection of you right now. That is what was on my mind that first night, those guys that surrounded me terrifying me enough to walk out sure we had made the wrong choice to land a while there in dreary Oregon, coast always socked in with tree-foam liquid on the air.
The guy across from me, the vet biker who wore the denim jacket with the POW patches over his green (–recognizing that the green on all these guys might indeed just be a product of the way imagination mixes with my memory, as the time goes by–) what he shared with me were some super cracked out stories about being on LSD.
His name was Rich and he had that wild, crazy-eyed way of speech with words full of wisdom and full of nonsense at once. He was the kinda person who intimidated me because it meant having to take the time to pick out which words from which. At least for me it meant picking out the wisdom, because otherwise I always felt like maybe he was making fun of me a little, talking just a bit over my head. And Rich talking acid at me scared me, because by the time I’d had that harvest moon meltdown in our trailer on the Oregon coast, I really had begun to think I might be, at least a little, losing my mind.
And secretly, I was certain that if that we’re actually happening, it was at least partly because of all of the acid back in the day.
Rich was the first of a small group that would become my community on the Oregon coast. It is a community I still visit and still count myself a part. I think maybe, as I follow word by word to get all this down, that the reason he’s coming back to me tonight is because despite that night increasing my doubts about being there in Oregon at all, he was the one who assured me on my way out the door of the recovery club:
Alsea Bay, December 2017
Come back. Yes, there are women here that are strong in recovery and good for you to know.
Which was exactly what I needed, because in those late fall early Oregon moments, even no drugs or drinks in my system for four whole years, when it came to recovery my brain was far more addict-strong.
what i’m listening to: old old woodstock, van morrison, off tupelo honey