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Brand Meanders




It’s lightly snowing today after seven weeks of what can only be termed unseasonably warm and clear weather. Of course, it could also be termed newly seasonable depending on your view of climate change. For here, in Southern Oregon, we should be in the damp and in the muck and in the cold, with snowpack building densely up on the ridges and hills and mountain tops close by.


That snowpack is vital to keep water flowing back into aquifers, streams, and lakes. Vital to help avoid the newly seasonable fire and smoke season every summer. It shows up as early as June these days, smoke pooling in and settling for a spell, a dirty embrace you can’t ever wash off.


When I’d visit here in the 90’s or even in the aughts, smoke was a few weeks. It can be months these days depending on where the fires have started. California is just to our south, dry as bones. Our region is dry as well and our valley acts like a bowl, letting itself be filled with whatever there is to fill it, from misty fog to acrid smoke.


Anyone that hasn’t lived through smoke and fire seasons may not understand the thick oppressiveness of the smoke, where your vision is obscured by swaths of brown and the smell of poison in the air. It fatigues and chokes and feels like a section of the future we all thought was just science fiction. The future is here and in our region it’s smoke and fire.

So, all this to say I’m quite happy that it’s snowing outside and would take days and days of the wet stuff if it meant avoiding even a week of the hot and dry. Summer used to be lovely.


Now it’s a season of dread.


It’s not really sticking, the snow, not at my altitude, though the close hills look properly sugar-dusted. I had to get out of the house and I meandered up to Pony Espresso feeling the tug to write.


This whole medium account seems a bit discombobulated. In the kid’s parlance, what’s my brand messaging, anyway? Cringe to even ask I suppose. I’ve written lots of words in my life, hundreds of thousands, some serious and business focused, but the majority have been prosaic, poetic, in the form of essays. I might best be called an essayist, as I’ve written short pieces on things that mean things to me perhaps to scratch a curious itch about a thing that bothers me, or to tell a story that might shift cultural or social norms, or just because I like how the words feel in my head and on the page. Maybe because I want to narrativize my life.


Document it.


I admire professional writers, especially those who have found a way to take writing into their careers and brands. I’ve written a small amount about my life and work in non-profit development, but oddly, I haven’t been able to write about that career in a way that has felt authentic to me. It’s certainly not that the work is boring, but maybe I find myself boring when I write about my work? Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve never approached the work from the essayist perspective. And…because some of those essays would be critical of the work itself. I’ve avoided conflict for too long.


Over the past two years of Covid19 shutting down/locking in, I’ve done a few deep dives into my past. A bit of a serendipitous coincidence that these two years have mirrored my advancement into my fifties. Well into middle age, this might be the perfect time for a mid-life crisis, expansion, resurgence, a bit like a personal Orpheus journey into the bowels of menopausal Hades, if only I don’t look back at the end, might I bring my other half that’s seemed so lost these past few years, back to the surface?


One of those deep dives was looking at my career path. That’s been quite profound, in a number of ways, from realizing just how long I’ve worked in a field to realizing that in some ways, I’d never truly committed to that field, eyes always on the prize of art (writing, performing, producing). But 26 years is a long time for a path to be followed, and I was happy to see that I have good relationships (or at the very least am in cordial contact with) employers and colleagues from every stage of it. There has been a thru-line during those years, and that’s primarily that I am a producer (and producers raise money) and a community builder (and community builders bring resources to those who need them).


The other deep dive has been a review of years and years of writing, determining what might be compiled and salvaged and what just is a loss, either because it made no sense, or was just…too loosey goosey and not-quite-committal enough to build upon. The through line in most of my written work, the essays and poems, and even the pieces designed to be performed is about the body. Sexuality, childbirth, aging, grief, dying, illness, human rights-all of those things have been at the forefront of the work both personally and in observation of the world.


I’m not sure what to do with either right now, perhaps I’m experimenting with merging the two threads of my life-career dynamics and artistic pursuits. Maybe I’m just still too scattered for any use.


My own feelings about myself and place in the world are unseasonable. I’m dry where I should be liquid, I’m flattened out where I should feel buoyant, motivated and un all at the same time. And lost in the new world of how one markets oneself. That could be an entire essay, and would likely be, as noted above, quite cringe given the realities of where one generation may lose a thread of technology and others maximize it.


We must take our seasons where we find them using the six weeks of hot and sunny “winter” weather until the snow comes in without much warning; adapting to the swiftly changing circumstances of the wind and rain, and then deal with what is handed us. Take the shifts in mood and write about what comes when it comes. This is what I’ve usually done, I suppose. Perhaps I can do it more fully in the future. For now, I’ll take the rain and snow and let it slick my mind with the desire to write, because I’m sure the fire and smoke will come.

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