an exercise: out of the fire

There’s a bridge in the distance. On the other side of the river. I can see the legs of it create great European arches in the cliffs, shouldering the weight of thousands of cars – thousands of lives – as it sits, precariously deployed against the face of the mountain. The mountain itself is steep, and messy. Grey and purple walls line the side like steps in a god’s staircase, enveloped by a blanket of trees in varying shades of green. Above it; the clouds. It is a sunny day in Oregon, and the clouds are a pale white like foam at the rim of a cappuccino. The blue skies beyond them are endless, as they always are, forever unchanged, boring. I have no interest in blue skies – I have seen enough of them.

I am sitting at a grey picnic table on the forehead of a hill. Tourists meander behind me along the trail, approaching the summit with discomfortingly calm voices – inside voices, perhaps because I am writing, perhaps because these are kind people, considerate people, and even in the outdoors they keep their inside voices. I only have an outside voice.

The freeway I took to get here pounds along the lake. Cars have no inside voices, either.

Somebody threw up on this table, I think. When I moved it to better face the lake I saw it, mushed into the grass like a hot pink stew. It could, of course, be stew.

For now, I’ll keep walking. The waterfall was impressive, but getting there was too easy. Instant gratification. I am not used to it. I am used to driving three hours to see a stream of water. Here, it seems, there is beauty everywhere. I don’t know whether to be appreciative or annoyed. There is no longer a journey. I have yet to find mine.

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