Silent stories

Does a bear shit in the wood?

Nope, he shits on the trail. A lot. After eating enormous amounts of berries. This I noticed while hiking the North Fork of the John Day River in Oregon last week. (Which is why I haven’t posted lately.)

God, what beautiful country. I say God with all sincerity here. Being a lapsed agnostic, the outdoors is one of the few places (along with Old World churches, curiously enough) where I think I get an actual inkling of God.

But God, the creative force, is a topic for another posting. I was talking about bear poop.

Out there, in the middle of pretty much nowhere, was a story, written in half-digested seeds. A story of autumn gluttony in the berry bushes, a leisurely waddle down the easy trail beside the icy clear water to dig sharp claws into rotting cedar, a hole in the hillside somewhere ready for inevitable winter.

At a later riverside camp at another fork of the John Day, the volcanic ash path on the quarter-mile hike to the pit toilet told tale of the creatures that had passed us in the night under the light of a full moon. The curved hoofprints of elk, the pellet poop of deer and rabbit, the perfect tiny tread of lizards and the sweeping parentheses of lumbering toad toes, a big white streak of guano where a startled heron had taken to the night sky. Stories of searching for dinner or escape from being dinner, or a mate, or merely travel downvalley as the weather changes.

Stories all told in shit and footprints and silence.

And there’s me, with my 16-page working outline of Book 2, my three-ringed binder, my indestructible AlphaSmart with fresh AA batteries.

I’m a hack, I tell you.

Ah well, they say the first draft is always crap.


3 thoughts on “Silent stories

  1. I still can’t believe you managed to write out there. Man. You are good. Of course, only Jessica would go from nature (writing) to crap(writing). I would’ve gone from nature (writing) to beauty — sunsets, trees, cute animals named thumper (writing)


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