I took the three dogs out to the Owyhees, which is the mountain range about forty minutes away. I loaded them into the Jimmy or the GMC, took some water, three dog bones, a towel. The old dirty blanket got placed across the back seat because there’s a small river up that way. And the three dogs love to fling themselves into the waters, whether pond, mud puddle, ocean, lake, trickle, stream, or river.
The wind a bit gusty but the sun out, the day beautiful otherwise. June day, not too hot but hot enough.
It seemed my mood lifted the second I crossed the tiny bridge over the Malheur as I drove toward the state park area. There’s a road carved into the rocks and sagebrush that leads up to the big reservoir where you can boat or swim or just hang. I don’t go up there cause…people are there and my entire goal in life right now is to avoid all human contact. That’s not sarcasm or being cutesy. That’s my depression, which has won and is just waiting for me to cut my wrists already so it can move on to someone else who at least poses a challenge to it…
Medication? Other than whatever’s in the fridge? No.
The three dogs whine and whimper. When they get to go anywhere, their other ends spew. They get excited, they have to empty the chambers. So I pull over, as there are little roads cut into the hills, as well as free range cattle and places to shoot off mortar rounds and…it’s Eastern Oregon. You can also see where the wagons cut grooves into the earth for all time, seemingly. Oregon Trail tracks. No kidding. Come see the permanent damage people have done to the earth, y’all!
I slow down when I see a ‘road closed’ sign, and a traffic cone. One of my favorite little spots to hunt rocks. This part of Oregon is rock hound heaven, in case I have not mentioned that. There’s a Thunderegg Festival in Nyssa, Oregon. That’s where people bring rocks to sell, along with other things. A thunderegg is another name for a geode.
The bridge, a tiny stone and wood structure you can drive across, had been swept away by a spring flood. The litter of that bridge in the river yet, which rushed past it importantly. Now. This is a narrow little river but it packs a powerful current with a strength more suited to the Mississippi at times. Same with the Snake River. It’s deceptively narrow but treacherous as the current regime of Gross Old Perverts. Crossing it on a covered wagon, in the days before dams and crumbling bridges, shudder. There’s a couple of famous crossing places that have been preserved in Idaho and Oregon. Farewell Bend, for instance. It’s where you left the river and went up into the Blues. By this time in your Oregon Trail adventure, you were just happy you were still alive.
Up the badly maintained road, often with rocks tumbled across it from the stony outcroppings that lean over it like something from a LOTR movie, I discover one of my favorite spots has no camper or group of scrubbed tourists lounging there like ticks on a hound. The dogs explode out of the back of the Jimmy, I notice I’ve left my bucket at home. I did bring a small ice cream bucket and a sack but nothing to put any or all the rocks I was sure to find. Hope is always eternal when I rouse myself enough to sneak off to hunt the elusive stationary rock. Some trips I find agates or chunks of crystal this or that almost at my feet when I park. I make sure I can get back on the road again as getting stuck out there with no phone is not a goal of mine. I can’t afford minutes at the moment.
The dogs go swimming. They sniff. I wander about noting the rocks, how the river must have flooded this little area, as the ground is yet muddy and water plants had died in straight lines. I had just seen the small bridge destroyed by the Owyhee River. I knew of hikers trapped by a mudslide not days ago. Fifty or more. A man had been swept away after falling asleep when rafting this same river. Found safe after a while.
The current at this peaceful little spot, with a small ranch next to it with actual livestock wandering through now and then, seems relentlessly evil. The dogs have trouble swimming against it and I worry I might have to rescue either of the two big Labs or the young Kewpie. Or cow dog as I think of Miz Bridge.
However, they enjoy being out of the yard and I trudge about. I am happy enough as well to be out of the yard, so to speak. But there’s no real joy in me at being in what has always seemed a spiritual place that renews what little I have left in my life’s batteries. It’s my big birthday. I turned fifty. Is that it? I am just down over how old I am?
Yes, to be frankly honest as hell. That is a small part of that yesterday. I expected. I expected a life beyond failing over and over and over, with nothing to show for my writing efforts but two books nobody’s even read. Including people in my own immediate family. My own fault for not becoming a teacher way back when, a real one, with certificates and such. As I pushed to do by my mother and others, and I did see myself teaching English to high schoolers or even, gasp, my little dream of teaching theatre in a college. And if I go into any of my abject wrong turns here or actual dead end blunders, I really will give in despair. More than usual, anyway.
I am not writing this for sympathy or thrills. I am attempting to sort everything out before I can’t. Or am not able to anymore.
Yes, it’s that bad. All the time. That little trip yesterday was my birthday treat. That was it. My family didn’t do anything special for me and I was grateful to even have my dad remember it was my birthday on the actual day of my birthday. I am grateful for a scrap of ‘hey, birthday, whatever’. Grateful. I have never mattered to my family…that’s how I feel.
And we’re not supposed to have feelings anymore. Or ever?
Once my mother brought a German Chocolate cake for my birthday. From the bakery markdown selection. The frosting had cracks in it, as it was old. Cheap old cake. I realize now that during June farmers don’t have a ready supply of cash and that I should be happy she bothered to get me a town cake at all. I just…want to feel that I matter to my own flesh and blood a bit.
And every birthday, it seems, I am faced with the evidence that I don’t.
The lifelong depression is going to win. I’m not going to magically defeat this thing in my head. I can barely concentrate enough to write this. I want to give in so badly and just end it. There it is. If I can look that in the face a bit, maybe I can…
take the dogs for little jaunt somewhere else that’s strange and new to me. Where I have no memories to remember. And I make it through another day.