Be Here Now

by jkatejohnston

25 October 2013

Dear Max,

A couple of days ago I was driving back from Sonora in the afternoon and I stopped at a kayak boat launch on the Mokelumne River. It’s just a parking lot and an outhouse and a few dusty trails down to the water. After sitting all day in that windowless hearing room talking about Tab C of Complainant’s Exhibit 10—well it was wonderful. At that elevation there’s a mix of scrubby oaks, cedars, soft-looking grey-green pines, manzanita, and the gold-colored grass. The air was warm and dry. And the river right there, you look upstream and it’s white-water, down stream more white-water and in between a smooth swift green current with some quiet water near the banks, clear down to the brown gravel bottom. I sat on a granite boulder and put my feet in the water and read Resident Alien, thinking how Quentin Crisp didn’t hold with nature and how satisfying it was to read about his life on the peanut circuit in New York City while surrounded by this splendor.

I don’t think reading is any less an experience than anything else. God forbid. But some part of me thought, shouldn’t I be meditating, breathing it in, storing it up? In an hour I’ll be in stop-and-go traffic, five lanes in each direction. Shouldn’t I be having more of An Experience? The sun was hot on my back and neck. The water looked delicious. I didn’t have a bathing suit, but I was wearing a black bra of respectable proportions—but no underwear. (I forgot to pack an extra pair, and at the hearing I wore spanx so it didn’t matter.) I thought about going without and that if someone came along I would just keep my lower half submerged. But then I thought about getting arrested for indecent exposure while travelling on state business—and during business hours. I walked back along the short dusty trail to the rental car, dug my dirty underwear out of my backpack and quickly changed in the outhouse.

The water was probably as warm as it ever gets, which was still achingly cold. I waded into a quiet pool mostly surrounded by boulders and kept wading toward areas that looked warmer than where I was until I got to them. And finally I just ducked under. It was more like self-baptism than swimming. I ducked under again, deeper this time, grabbed a beer can from the gravel bottom and threw it over to where my clothes were. Then I went down again to get a piece of trash that was by the beer can, but when my hand grasped it, I shot to the surface, bubbles streaming. It was a half-rotten nearly white dead trout. I looked down at it, thinking how happy Enzo would be if I somehow got it home, and how unhappy Teresa would be, and about how to transport it—no plastic bag, no any kind of bag—and about the immaculate rental car. And left it there.