Far more addict-strong

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.

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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:

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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

 

 

 

 

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A lighthouse, of sorts

The first time I left Maryland to live someplace else was also the first time I left Chestertown, where the river is the first who ever spoke to me its shhhh shh river talk tinkling over my skin breezing breath of fragmite and sea grasses up the back of my neck underneath my hair, river talk meandering along the brick-made streets of that downtown there, Chestertown-yellow light of late leaf fall, Chestertown if spoken right with long breath a word itself sounding like river talk, Chestertown, the upper-central heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

This was in 2004.  I’d been by that point living in Chestertown for six years, taking four of those years to finish what shoulda been two and a half years of college because I dropped out twice due to drinking and drugs.

I was four years clean and sober in 2004 when we went off to live in the forest after a calling to worship only the earth and her natural rhythms.  Worship used here by me to mean to live by.

Me and my then partner, a Chester-townie, did that for five months. Lived by, according to, the earth, on her.  In her national forests across the United States and in parts of southern Canada, and in her coastal hills on Baja, Mexico, too.  Later, also we lived her in a city way, how the earth will rubble and struggle and speak concrete up into your feet  through concrete streets.

It’d been three months and we’d made it to Brookings, Oregon.   We were camping a few days on the banks of the Chetco river. The Chetco banks aren’t up to ya knees stuck in mud thwuck like the rivers on the eastern shore but instead are made entirely of river stones and you drive your vehicle right on to them.  Where stone becomes roots into moist earth along the Chetko the forest is sitka spruce and western hemlock, cedars and douglas firs.  The kind of blue green lines of pines and conifer breath that make you certain it’s the tree bows conducting the breezy river song.

Brookings is a coastal town and it was a holiday weekend and we had stopped for fish and chips and a cop pulled us over for failure to stop before a right turn.  It can be hard getting stopped when you’re out of towners in a small town and look like hippies and act like hippies and in the come down off that somehow it hit us, it was time to get practical.  We’d been on the road three months and had enough money left between us to get an apartment and nothing more.  So before we even got back to our home, our tent planted on the Chetco stones, we grabbed up a free circular and started looking, as you still did back then, in the back of the paper for places to live.

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We were on my brown sign road trip.  The one I’d been saying I would take since the first time I’d hit the road in 1997, when me and my best friend Mandy and Mike-rest-in-peace-Shue (no really he’s one of them souls you always tack that Rip part on to bc funny as he fuckn was and as always down to ride, his body while he was still here was never not home to a tortured inside,) rode an 11,000 mile circle around the States.  There are brown signs alllll around this land, America, this place so peopled with personality and conflict, passion and emotion, history and love.  Brown signs that tell us a little about the history of what was here in specific spots, what happened before we ever thought of the place to begin with.  Memories in the land that’ll be here long after we pass on by.

So I’d been saying I’d follow that no path but those brown and cast iron signs to more signs ever since 1997 with Mandy and Mike.  And now here we were, in Oregon, where they’d been leading us since northern California up the 101.  It was the next day and we left the Chetco and its little town and little newspaper and scary local cops, certain it wasn’t the place we were supposed to stay.   About a hundred or so miles up the coast we followed another historic sign.  It led us to the Heceta Head lighthouse.

Over my years of interest in soul and spirituality, and specifically depth development, lighthouses have become metaphoric.  A momentary light, a seconds long misty and nascent glimpse of your own inner journey.  The fleetingness of security, but security all the same, in your own footing, when you get just a flash of clarity on your own path and of your next step when you honestly can’t see where you’re going.

On the central Oregon coast specifically, fog is a primary weather forecast and the Heceta Head lighthouse dates back to the turn of the 19th century.  It’s on ground considered sacred, a place with living story specific to the details of the region for the Native American tribes that sustained on its shores. It also holds legends of hauntings and folk tales related to the settlers that replaced those tribes.  I remember still the whole-bodied reverence that made me feel complete in my skin standing there, peering up from the beach at the bridge with the 101 behind and above me, the light house on the cliffside up and to my right.

We explored the shores and structures of Heceta Head a while, then to soothe my anxiety about our “what next” given the dwindling funds, my partner and roadie made a call to a distant family member he’d met only once who lived north of the lighthouse by less than an hour.  We were twenty somethings, it was 2004, we were accustomed to oodles of noodles and didn’t think twice about skipping heat in the winter in our long johns. We could live in some forests for $5 a week.

By the end of that call we’d been offered a place to live.  Rent would be several hundred less than what we’d planned to spend, so we stretched the little bit of travel cash we had left to make it north to Seattle, where my homey Larry let us crash on his floor for six more weeks in Belltown.  We lived simple in the woods for three months, then wore our chords and hiking boots to walk the city streets and take pictures, or stop to write or read, in a place that every so often will land a lighthouse day and shine the majesty of Mt. Rainier back from the far horizon.  But is just as equally clouds and grey.

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In Seattle we walked.  Everyday.  To the famous waterfront market there or to Chinatown, to old town and Pioneer Square or else all the way to Queen Anne which wasn’t all the way rich yet, just for the adventure or a sometimes couple dollar meal.  We lived for six more weeks on our buddy’s floor, and flew home to Maryland for a visit and family wedding, all for under a thousand dollars.  It was pre-internet and a novelty for us even to use a debit card or think of owning a credit card.

When we did, finally, move to our new place on the central Oregon coast, it was into a trailer where the Alsea River mouth becomes the Alsea Bay.  We had no money at all, sometimes not even food, and couldn’t find jobs the first two months we were there.  But in our canoe on that river the ocean dolphins would sometimes break the water next to us, traveling in smooth silver lines, the whole way around the bay.   Up the river just three miles the Alsea Highway led us right into the heart of a national forest, and we learned to forage chanterelle mushrooms and cook meal after brand new meal using them as our main ingredient.

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I was so stressed those first two months my memory is stuck on crying myself to sleep more than once, and a sick, crazy feeling in my guts, and soaked corduroys and rain dripping off the hood of my rain jacket onto my glasses.  I beseeched the Great Love, or whatever it was that I believed in and felt and followed from my bones the whole time we lived in the forests and on the road, weeping and promising swearing to It that I’d ask the first sober female I encountered in the nearby recovery club to be my mentor.  Believing that I could bargain my way back to the reward feeling that everything would be ok.

Faith, as I have since learned by living, isn’t actually about trusting that the outcome will work out in your favor.  It is actually about how you walk when you have no idea the outcome that’s in store.  Walking through my real life with a willingness to believe that I’ll be taken care of, no matter what.

Gretchen is the name of the woman who’d become my mentor, and she was in fact the first female I encountered at the club three times.  I was a full on kinda crazy when I met her, and she became the one person in my life who for a decade and a half–years and years in fact after I’d up and leave the Oregon coast and continue traveling–to always, no matter what, remind me every time to be true to my self.

She was a lighthouse, of sorts.  Always leading me back home, within.

And there’s a relationship, I’m realizing, of that sort of consistent, if only momentary re-commitment of clarity and light within, to faith.  Similar to how the words always lead me, not knowing how I’ll get there, but if I trust the process of laying each one down how I do always get there, soundly, to peace.

Faith is not so much about the steps you are taking as much as it is, maybe, about how graceful we are in not resisting having to take steps forward, anyway.  Even when we can’t fully see.

 

 

 

Sun down on the summa

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The first day I pulled into that town colonial-known cuz it’s river was a “headwater” of the Chesapeake, I was still a drunk (in fact in the center of a mean red haze continued that same night on the docks in Annapolis where I was waitin tables) which made it so those funky catfish mudbanks grabbed my heart and tortured me with love so hard  I swooned.

Look there’s one thing we drunks do and it’s romanticize, so let me tell ya.  I never really left the Eastern shore again after that first day and I am telling you 100%, it was cuz of the river, it got in my heart.  It was 1998.  I’d just turned 21.

It was even river-named, this headwaters place, called Chestertown.

Chestertown not barely the only place in those upper highlands dirty with the knee high grit of pleasant living bay blues, but it had a special hold on the wilds left there in a way south Baltimore docks had long ago at least in part lost.

Nah.  Not #lost, just, forgot.

South Baltimore docks being the part of native land that my Maryland family was originally from.  Grit our birthright, what the wild had replaced…you understand?

It was, by crow flight, what?  5, 6 miles? 10?  Across the Bay, to where my dad’s family was born : them old private Kent county points I ain’t gonna name and #sellout here.

It was also not barely the first time I’d been in love.

That first day I pulled into Chestertown I was still with this guy named Joe. He lived in #Eastport and I stayed in his room, all of us in that pad of his working at the rum place right across the Eastport bridge, on the corner there, downtown.

Makes me smile to think on those good days long gone because 🙂 God damn!!  If there was one thing I was good at back then it sure was #fuckndrinking.

Anyway, my sobriety turns adult this year.  That’s right.  Not a swallow of alcohol in me in 18 years.  Well, I mean except for that one time at the Hotel Imperial I chugged water from what I thought was my glass but actually it was someone else’s and full of vodka.  And also at the hostel in Baja, Mex, when I thought I was grabbing for and chugging a coke but actually, #TECATE.

Anyhow.  Also, the amount of years it’s been since I got out of high school now is equal to the age I was when I quit the drink.  23.

Meaning.  Lately I’ve been thinking how this path I’ve been on is adding up.

And anyways, since I come from a story-telling on the back porch laugh til your sobbing crying people, and because the words are how I process so my inside and my outsides make sense, I figured that with all this damn thinking going on it might best be time to start writing, again, instead.

So.  I give you The So Much I Would Have Said.

ctown in naptown

A blog in memory (and honor of the legacy) of my first #soulfamily #elders, both whom now have passed.

Gretchen, Bobby Ray~

Thank you.

~

image 1: sun down on the summa, #knowwhatstreet!?!??! #ocmd 

image 2: ctown crew in naptown, sometime in 03 or 04, or 06-08

~

what I’m listening to: The Dead South, In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company