For my first day of my 100 Days Project, “100 Days of Novel Research,” I’m reading in “Humboldt History, Volume One: Two Peoples, One Place” by Ray Raphael and Freeman House, about the Native American people who lived in Humboldt County long before– and during– the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, which is when my novel takes place. One of the major ways the Euro-Americans devastated the landscape of Humboldt County was by mining the rivers for gold excessively and unwisely. As Ray Raphael writes, “In the second half of the nineteenth century, citizens of Humboldt who looked to make their fortunes by mining or logging or fishing treated these resources as gifts of nature that would ‘go to waste’ unless utilized in the here and now. They did not look very far into the future, to a time when resources might become depleted.”
Primary source, Charlie Thom, said in an interview: “I’m telling you they really raped this land, and I am a full-blooded Indian from the Karuk tribe and it really disturbs me. How this thing came about I don’t know. Greed, a lot of bloodshed, and I look at the country today. What it is. How can they turn the soil upside down and out and do nothing about it? Today we are living in a rock pile along the Klamath. We’re living in a rock pile. No more soil. The erosion came and hit.” (“Humboldt History, Volume One: Two Peoples, One Place,” by Ray Raphael and Freeman House)
This is my sketch of a Karuk woman named Dolly Sanderson, with her handwoven baskets, along the Klamath River, circa 1915.
Sadness, my friend: you are with me lately, so I attempt to hold onto you. I need quiet time behind closed doors. I need to be alone so I can hear the timbre of my own voice echo over you. At times, not belonging feels familiar. I sometimes feel the need to seem much happier than this, in order to make other people feel at ease. But I can’t fend much off– I’m dallying with you, sadness, for the moment. You are desperate enough for my attention that you are squeezing my heart.
Your original songs. Put them into the world to help us, please.
The young woman wanted very much to taste handmade gnocchi in an Italian village, rather than just to dream about it from her home in the United States. So she secured passage across the Atlantic.
She feared that she would feel lost and alone in the little village, once she got there, or that the gnocchi would not taste as piquant as she had imagined it would. She couldn’t guard against those things, but she could guard against her fear of sinking at sea, because she had procured her own lifeboat, which happened to be transparent and to have a garden growing in it. She gave the high sign to hoist it onto the ship. She was becoming more and more comfortable with moving of her own volition.
I drew this picture of my daughter Rae last night– her idea. She wrote the caption: Rae, the Caracal.
She looks sorta sweet as she licks her paw, but no! She will leap high into the air and fiercely attack you, sometimes without obvious cause. Sometimes these attacks can throw you off balance, or even hurt. We are working on this. If she really wanted to hurt someone in these moments, she could do some damage.
Rae embodies the essence of the caracal which is carnivorous, secretive, territorial, with a “robust build, long legs, a short face…” Thank you Rae for introducing me to an animal I had never heard of, and thank you Wild Kratts for your great tv show which teaches kids about wild animals, and thank you caracals for your wild fierce nature which shows my girl how to fight and find her strength.
There was a girl who loved a bear. Every day she met the bear in the forest, and they trampolined together.
The forest was deep and dark– exactly the type of place that threatened and frightened the girl. But the bear of course, being from the forest, didn’t feel frightened there at all. He loved the forest, and he liked trampolining with the girl. Meanwhile, she loved the bear (I mentioned that earlier) and she liked trampolining with him, but was afraid of the forest.
So you see, they each loved a different thing– he loved the forest, which she feared, whereas she loved the bear, who did not return her affection with the same intensity. But the thing they agreed on was trampolining: they both liked that equally. So they met and jumped together every day (as I already mentioned) and put up with the dissimilarities in the other areas.
To what avail did they trampoline together? Did doing so enable future alliances between humans and bears? Did their unheard-of habit bring them fame or even momentary popularity? The answer is no and no, because neither of them told a single soul about their trampolining.
Did their trampolining strengthen their hearts and improve their complexions? Perhaps. But that is not why they did it, not completely.
Mostly I think it was because at that precarious moment when they were both suspended in the air at the same time, they were more connected to each other than either of them ever was to anyone else in their regular, disparate lives.
He felt sad about the sadness that other people carried. He could practically feel it emanating from their houses as he drove by them. And they were lonely because they couldn’t talk about being sad.
But really, who would want to talk about it? In fact, he, too, tried to keep his soft, most vulnerable core away from the humanity. Dating caused disillusionment, because even the most handsome, normal-seeming guys showed sad glimpses if you got too close– missing their dead mother, or not living up to their potential, or… being lonely. He usually shied away at that point. If felt like the motion you use when you are swimming backwards, away from something gross suspended near you in the water. You don’t want to touch it.
Jazzland in Sacramento featured live music of various bands every night, seven nights a week, but some of those nights were so dead, the only audience members were Dave the bartender and me, standing on either side of the bar, applauding politely, and anchoring the stack of cocktail napkins when a breeze blew in from Broadway.
One older drummer in the straight-ahead band on late night Wednesdays, would regularly fall asleep while working the brush on the snare drum. His head would droop down until his chin rested on his chest and the circles of the brush would slowly come to a complete stop. The rest of the band kept sawing away, just making it through to the end of the evening. As I looked around at the few lonely customers sipping drinks at circle tables, no one seemed to care that a member of the “live” band on stage was asleep. It felt like an extravagance to have gotten semi dressed up to come to work, because we were Nowhere, and we were with almost No One, and not only does that equal No Tips– it was depressing.
Once, at midnight, we were closing up after a Nothingness night, and Dave was in back, counting the till. I came around front with the broom, to sweep, when I noticed someone sitting at the keyboard, softly playing. The band had already packed out of there, and yet here sat this figure, alone in the emptiness, staring at the keyboard like he had something sad to tell it, and coaxing out a haunting tune that made my skin prickle.
The loose scraps of paper, on which she enjoyed writing, were liable to fly away if someone left a window open. But she firmly believed that fresh air blowing through the screens was the best– and certainly easiest– way to keep a house clean. So she allowed windows, and even sometimes doors, to be left open all hours in her household, and she trusted the breezes to loop her ideas back to her when she needed them.
Meanwhile, the cobwebs gathered in the ceiling corners, and at this rate would be pleasingly haunting by Halloween.
As the August evening cooled and softened, it took on a magical air, as if colors were to be considered in new ways, as if the dry, wild grass in her back yard was a place of possibility and tenderness, as if somebody she had never met before cared about her.