My name is Bob and I live in the Oregon Cascades. I’m 64 years old. I’m one person on a planet that has 7 billion people on it. One thing I have learned in my time on the planet is this: what I have to say about my life, the experiences I’ve had, the wisdom and answers I’ve found and the questions I still have are all far more interesting to me than others.
In the mountains here, on a walk with my wife Lenore and our dog Charlie, when I’m in the middle of that certain quality of air and light among ancient trees and lush ferns and the cascades of the glacier-fed river near our home, I’m not even that interesting to me.
The mountains and the river have been here a long time. The trees are far older than I will ever be. I will be here, and then I will be gone – an infinitesimal mote on the timeline of the universe. I will have been an individual, I will have been unique. I am here, and then I will be gone from here, incorporated into the grand gestalt of the universe.
I’m an anonymous writer. I’ve written all my life. I started with numbers on a Big Chief tablet and a pencil when I was four. My parents allowed me to stay up late that night because they wanted to see how long I’d last. One thousand, one hundred, eleven. I was sleepy, but I wanted to get to all those ones lined up in a row, and I hung in there. I also started in on the alphabet at that age, and by now it is quite done with me and wishes I would give it a rest.
In 1969 I turned 21. It was the best time in the 20th century for an anonymous writer to come of age, a time when nobody surfed the tsunami of America into adulthood. We were churned by it and spat out, dazed and hammered, onto the shores of the next decade. I wrote full-time from 1971 to 1975. Experimental, unconventional, outlaw art. In the days when Hunter S. Thompson was laying the foundation of Gonzo Journalism I was writing in a steaming, chaotic chrysalis of gonzo literature. I wrote essays, vignettes, stream of consciousness roller coasters, fragments, prose photographs. I tied them together with simple threads to create strange, jigsaw-puzzle novels and short stories that unfolded in nine separate panes of a window, or were shaped like an hourglass.
The more I wrote the more I became aware how words fractured the truth of being I sensed and sought. The more I wrote, the more I fractured the truth I wanted to reflect. I knew that I was young, and that while I had already acquired an extraordinary and unusual breadth and depth of life experience which very few, if any, of my peers could share, I still needed to experience even more of life. They say be careful what you ask for. At some point I asked for “a great gestalt of being” to be in me as the result of much experience. I got both.
Later, I would write this about writing:
Words. Could there ever be words that would catch such a place? No, not now. How would he do it? Once he would have tried; he had been a writer once. Long ago, it seemed.
It had fallen away from him — or he from it, more likely, considering the wide-arcing spirals of the life behind him. But that had been a good thing, the writing. With the exuberance of youth he had worn the raging, passionate persona of a poet well, but inconclusively. The outward trappings and strife had later fallen away and left him for the most part still. The heart of it had been good. He recalled when he had yearned for a great measure of living to be within him, when his time upon the earth would have provided him with a wealth of events, characters, places and wisdom. It had not turned out to be so. His past was rich and wild with these things, but they had not remained separate or clarified. They had run together and merged and flown apart and shifted until now nothing occurred cleanly in recall. His life had become a gestalt, the events and characters and places of his living funneled into a cumulative focus that became only a single event, a single character, a single place.
There had always been an uneasiness with the writing, the manipulating-god aspect of it, the contrived chiaroscuro biases between the poles of light and darkness, the forced orchestral constructs. A growing discomfort with profane fragments as a singular wholeness welled up around him everywhere. For a time he had traced; drawn and shaded as honestly as he could, seeking tones that were not contrived or certain. Even his slightest touch, he found, had shattered his subject into pieces, and finally he had stopped.
It had been a portion of his path. It had been good to catch the exquisite images whirling in the world of emerging youth, had been a necessary step into the greater mystery which followed when each shattered piece began to fit with every other.
He felt now as though his path had been more of a free and dizzying fall, where the velocity of wind had stripped him clean on his way to an absolute destination. A fall still in progress. He thought of the shards that had so far been torn away, wondered what fastenings now unknown would prove to be more excess, to be flung away too in this constant, inexorable cleansing…
I still write, obviously. For the most part, though, I am an anonymous and lazy wanderer in the Oregon Cascade mountain range, where I live my life.