Dangerous Compassions



“The hicks and the hippies had a baby.  They named it Oregon,” I said to Ming.

It was early morning, and we were talking about camels.  Hmm, made sense at the time.  Water, carrying water, tons of water.  Yes, the desert and this biome here are sort of opposite.


Oregon is a place I idealized for a long time.  My jr high school best friend visited Oregon and came home saying, “You would love it there.  It’s so green!”

I thought maybe I would end up living in Oregon one day.  And now that is true.  The best friend was right.  The green is remarkable.

In addition to green, I have learned about how it feels to see huge tree trunks stacked on logging trucks, prevalence of weed, white rural people.  Those strips of forest they leave standing by the freeways to keep it looking pristine for the passers through, when much logging has clearcut the land just beyond the reach of a driver’s eye gaze.  I thought those were called dummy strips, but googling doesn’t yield anything.  Dummy strips, dummy stripes, the strip of forest against the freeway all yield nothing.  Maybe I’m remembering the name wrong.


“Why is there mold on the window?” I asked Ming.  “Are we supposed to pretend that’s moss?”

We were at a vacation rental in Portland, Oregon to escape loud construction being done on the upstairs bathroom of the house we live in.

On our trip we saw three beloved friends.  The musician talked to us about his kid, his feelings about fatness, mandolins, styles of playing banjo, a pandemic alt country group he played with over zoom.  He ate a messy breakfast sandwich and said “love you too” when I hugged him goodbye.

The mushroom expert had tea with Ming.  I was KO by my mom’s death anniversary and too delirious to attend.  But Ming drove me out just for a driveway hug in the late afternoon.  I could do touch but not conversation.  He’s the cousin by marriage of one of my dearest ones, a temporary chosen family member.  He told me his van is leaking gas, and he put into the universe a request for a new car.


The one who makes and teaches ceramics offered us kilns.  One of her turkeys was upset about our visit.  Her mom made a fire outside, burning random twigs and larger pieces of wood.  I liked the sensory experience of a fire, which I hadn’t had since last time we visited them.  Yes, I moved my chair closer to the fire, watching the moss sparkle as it burned.

I thought of all the organisms being killed in the fire, and the way life is constantly being cycled through.  Life, death, life, death.  Reproduction, and how types of organisms have different ways of staying around.  We might call the ways “survival strategies” but is there a strategist?

It’s confusing, how humans have projected onto everything.  Plants, animals, fungi, the land itself, the water itself.  Microorganisms–single celled organisms.  I can try to abstain from projecting, but it feels inevitable–making sense and using language makes projecting inevitable.

In grad school we called it the pathetic fallacy.  To imagine the land we looked at had feelings inside it, when really the feelings come from us.

Maybe I can take breaks from projecting and just see the moss sparkle, smell the smoke, feel the fire’s warmth.


When I was a young person, I thought of moss mostly in terms of “a rolling stone gathers no moss” and as habitat for water bears.  I once bought a piece of moss from a mail order catalog in hopes I could soak it in water and see if any water bears would come out, to view under microscope.  Back when my ex had a stereo microscope and microscopy was part of my life.

I still think diatoms are very pretty, and I still love water bears.


What do you think of Oregon?  Have you been here?  I used to think hippies were the best people in the world, doing love, showing a better way is possible.

Now I see hippies as just another style of selfish, irresponsible flake.  Weed is an excuse for poor follow through.  They do misogyny like any other style of person.  The love is not really there–just a mood or gesture that will trick us.  It’s hollow, a performance that can’t be maintained.

But don’t listen to me.  Part of me is very sad about harms I’ve felt from trusting brutal men.  Please don’t let my bitterness hurt you.  Please keep believing in whatever keeps you working toward a better world.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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