When Robin and I were in college we lived on the bottom floor of a treehouse that was cleverly perched on a wooded hillside in Eugene. The house was designed by an architecture professor and his wife—a crystal healer—who lived upstairs. The architecture professor was a participant in the Pattern Language architecture movement of the late 1970s and was, therefore, primarily interested in establishing psychological refuge and outlook in his abode. The architecture professor’s wife was primarily interested in cocking the house in such a way that its facets made full use of the meridians and prisms of the zodiac. Robin and I were very excited to live in a house that had been so thoughtfully built from philosophical ethers. Both Robin’s and my childhood homes are rural palimpsests of poorly conceived remodels, annexes, outbuildings, and mysterious incongruities.
Nonetheless, my incongruous childhood home in Chilly Desert, Kingdom of Deseret is blessed with plentiful outlook owing to the endless sagebrush desert that surrounds it in every direction. You can look out from my parents’ house until the desert floor cooks itself into the sky. It is because of this landscape, I suppose, that if feel so hopelessly tiny all the time, and numb tongued, and distant. But I feel calmest and happiest there, and more able to write myself into the larger geomorphic drama of the earth. I have never felt entirely comfortable in the clammy and claustrophobic rain forest of western Oregon, where I live now— its wagon roads, petroglyphs, geo-stratigraphies, and vistas long molded and overgrown.
I was very happy, therefore, to come out of the monotonous forest, and pass the scarred up desert outpost of Umatilla and the snakebit sites of the Cayuse War and the Whitman Incident.
I stopped at the Powder River Sportsmens Club on the Virtue Flat Range in order to mark the transition and to mingle with the other club men who were glinting like broken glass on the desert floor.
I walked out onto Virtue Flat to get a feel for the stillness and hotness from so long ago.
I met my mom and dad and the rest of the gang at Hells Canyon Dam. My mom and dad and the rest of the gang are very calm and profound from living out there in the desert all the time. We put all our shit on the boats and put in for four days on the river.
It felt great to be in the canyon again. Granite and Wild Sheep were lively at 9000 CFS.
The weather was nice for floating. We saw otters and wild sheep and lazuli buntings and golden eagles and western tanagers and a black bear. We saw kingfishers and caddis hatches and rainbow trouts.
We camped the first night at Bernard Crk.. In the morning we hiked out of the canyon and looked down at our tiny boats on the rock bar below. The Hells Canyon is the deepest river canyon in N. America.
My magnificent mom and dad made chilaquiles and Mexican hot chocolate for breakfast.
It got hot when the sun came up over the canyon rim. Everybody crawled into the shade and took swims and drank beer and took naps.
I slept on a ledge under this petroglyph site and had very troubling dreams. I slept here once before when I was fifteen. I am very afraid of this site, but I cannot help but want to sleep there.
In the literature these figures, made by Sheepeater Shoshoneans who lived in the canyon for more than ten thousand years, are ordinarily called ‘shield figures’ and are usually considered to be warring or hunting motifs. You can see, for example, the zooanthropomorph on the far left, who appears to have curled sheep horns on his head, a large round shield body and what seems to be a feathered wand or spear. The other ‘shield’ figures at this site are holding strange lobed wands and straight sticks.
I considered these figures for a long time and it suddenly became plausible that these antagonistic, male ‘sheep men’ are, in fact, pregnant women. The curled ram horns, according to my theory, are in fact her swollen tits, and the round shield is a pregnant belly.
Here is another pregnant woman at the site. You can see her head, boobs, and belly with linea negra. She is holding a strange, lobed wand that could perhaps be her baby attached to its umbilical chord.
There are also two ‘square shield figures’ that look to me like people under striped blankets. You can see her feet sticking out at the bottom. The conclusion is that this ledge is a fertility site and a good place to have sex under a blanket, or that it is a maternity ward and a good place to give birth.
The next day we floated to Kirkwood. I got a little swamped and turned around in Waterspout.
We stopped for a hike to Suicide Point.
The prickly pears were in bloom!
Bev and Glen and Andy made fish and dutch oven potatoes and cobbler for dinner. It rained all night and we listened to two screech owls talking to each other in the trees above us.
We looked back upriver one last time as we got to Pittsburg Landing.