back to nature

trailing vines

The photos in this post are sourced in a square block along my walking route downtown, on the southeast side of the Willamette River, an abandoned building with evidence of fire damage. Vines are creeping in and dangling one story down. Rusted bolts and wires hang from the walls, bricks and garbage strewn in rain puddles. Graffiti artists have been tagging and painting the walls, crawling under, around, or over the protective chain-link fencing. Neither the owner nor the city of Portland seems to mind much. Per a quick Web search, the building is the Taylor Electric Supply Co., formerly the Ingersoll Rand Equipment Co., that burned in 2006—all this in six years.

bolts, vines, & graffiti

rusted Lego bolts & butterfly bushes

Trees, grass, blackberry bushes, and non-native butterfly bushes not yet in their scented, purple, conical summer bloom sprout from the cracks in the concrete. I've imagined a fashion shoot here, models posed against the graffiti-ed walls with requisite bored expressions, their gowns juxtaposed against the urban decay—all so ubiquitous, so been-there-done-that.

graffiti queen
If one has never seen photographs of Chernobyl 20-plus years on, the images of abandoned dolls and vegetation out of context fascinate, humble, what happens to human-made structures and objects when the humans disappear. In the U.S. James Griffioen of Sweet Juniper has posted unsettling shots of abandoned Detroit buildings over the years of what he calls "feral houses" engulfed in the vines and trees of former landscaping, some of which are so haunting he's been selling prints.

graffiti, grass, concrete, & rust

Growing up in rural Oregon, my family would drive on highways past abandoned homesteads, forgotten shacks, pieces of the pioneer past. My ancestors are buried in pioneer cemeteries across the West, dotting a zigzagged trail, the logic of which is long past. In Oklahoma on a road trip in the early 1990's, we could barely find the unmarked cemetery along the rural route, even with a map, because the grass was so high, let alone uncover the graves of our dead.

enter at risk

As public announcement, warning as well as motivation, I'm about to start—and by start I mean tidying up the 18 single-spaced pages of starts-and-stops saved over the last ten years, all in different fonts, and then pressing forward—that family memoir friends have been saying for years I should write because my family's so crazy psychologically complex. And it's not just my friends but my mother who also thinks I should spill the goods, prostituting memory and history for a book contract. (Does she know she'd be one of the main characters? Is that the point?) And why not? When we're gone, who will know the stories unless they're told, documented? Or is the deeper desire only to imagine what might have been, based on the breadcrumb traces, the silent remains? Since truth is stranger than fiction, sometimes the whole truth can be too much to handle.

"delete: negativity.exe / install: happiness.dmg"

One of my brothers called up yesterday and when I told him of the memoir plans, he said, "You do have a little bit of life experience, but nothing like mine. I could tell you stories that would blow your mind. You do have a gift for that kind of stuff, though. I don't get writers. Weird people. Unique. . . . Just keep me the fuck out of it."

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