Shamanic Moon and Spoken Coasts

For that one descending eye-lash curve of bridge where the Beaverton-Hillsdale drops down onto Barbur, you can get some serious speed on a bike, coasting down into that first view of Portland, the lane leaning left, but your mind can keep going out over the river, into the sunrise. You have all of this momentum, gravity.

“And as the moon cleared the horizon and hung in the blue sky, it showed the brilliant white glow all the way around it, confirming the true full. It was a huge one, much bigger than the setting sun had been. The last sunset of his wander; as he realized that, a pang pierced him, the world grew to something more immense than he could grasp.”

– Shaman, 62

In a few hours the shadow of the moon will cover the earth. I’ll try to bike to Council Crest, to unobstructed views and other gawking strangers.

One book, Shaman, by Kim Stanley Robinson, can stand for all the others I’ve read in the more-than-year since I’ve posted. Representations simplify, clarify, like an equation singled down into whole decimals.

“This obsession you have with transitions,” the bald man with an Eastern European or Slavic accent said to the other writers in the group, “it’s not normal, not universal. It is American.”

After the book discussion (which stands for others), there was an open mic, and I read lines that had never been written down, composed and memorized on buses, which I would forget by the following morning.


Kim Stanley Robinson usually writes epic hard science-fiction about distsant futures or colonizing Mars. Shaman describes a prehistoric human surviving in a society of hominids. No aliens, no technology, no apocalypse, just the species story we all have–the outlines of our adapted, evolutionary history, mostly of finding food and staying warm. All of the tech in the novel is narrative, or biological. Loon, an apprentice to the ill-disposed older medicine man Thorn, deals with the frailty of literal bodies and bodies of “literary” knowledge:

“There’s none of you old enough to know everything you need to know. You’ll be limping along like it’s the dream time again. It’s fragile what we know. It’s gone every time we forget.” -419


I’m going to go outside now, to this free show the universe is putting on.

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