By Neva Knott
I often read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, as a way to begin writing. Sunday, I read her essay, “Emergency Case,” in which she explains that many writers feel they need a crisis to get the creative juices flowing. My struggle with writing and creating is not that I need an emergency; rather, it’s the opposite. I am always seeking calm within myself so that I can sit to write. I do not find the writing energy in mishandling my life, living drained and angry, feeling like I’m moving past real life. Though, as I read “Emergency Case,” I thought of the small emergency of getting lost yesterday…
I was driving up to a forest site near Hood Canal to conduct an interview on a community forest site. I was lost, because the forester I was to meet had given me the wrong name of a road. I called him several times, to the point he became exasperated with me. Finally, we agreed I’d park and wait for him to drive out to the main road to find me.
I pulled over from this emergency as Natalie might call it, and walked with my dog up a logging road.
First, I saw the bones, picked clean by predators, eroded clean by weather, but still pliable and not yet beginning to deteriorate. A short set of vertebrae and four rib bones. The ribs were long and their curvatures slightly elegant.
As we walked on, up the slight hill, we came upon a circular puddle, obviously made by a motorcycle rider going around and around. In the water pool of the tire tracks stood a robin, drinking the muddy water. Smallish, singular, but bravely in the pond. This little bird intrigued me. Aesthetically, I think it was the mix of a natural creature in a man-made space out it the woods–in an otherwise humanly uninhabited place.
Walking down the incline, I looked left. Up on a bank I saw more of the carcass. Rest of the vertebrea and part of the pelvis. Big bones, bigger than human, deer, or dog. My guess–elk. I saw no other smatterings, no fur or sinew. I paused to wonder at the kill, always intrigued by these markers of the circle of life, then walked on.
I thought, as I often do, of how easy it is to embrace life and witness small examples of the vastness of it, just by getting out of the car for a minute or two.