Who is Viper Bugloss and why are Carl Jung and his mother driving up the Little Spokane River to find the split in consciousness? What is Anais Nin doing at the Waikiki Ranch and what does Walt Whitman have to say to Chief Spokane Garry?
Visit Dream Fishing the Little Spokane today. Once you’ve been there and back, America will never look quite the same.
Mister White Does Genealogy
Mister White wondered about his genealogy. After all, everyone seemed to be doing it. He wondered if he could construct a family tree. He wondered if he had any famous relatives, someone about whom he could spin a good yarn while hanging in the slack water. “You know, I’m a direct descendant of King Salmon. He’s a passing acquaintance of my great-great-great grandmother’s twelfth cousin, fifth removed. I think it’s where I get my autotetraploid powers.”
He found he could go way back, all the way to 95 million years ago. His relatives were autotetraploids all, twice the chromosome arms and DNA. He rolled the word autotetraploid, ah . . . toe . . . tet . . . ra . . . ployd, around in his mouth. Turns out it’s a big word for an inbreeding advantage. Turns out it was okay for great-great-grandpa and sister to find some holler and start a family. It was okay for his family to be a hall of mirrors, super-Hapsburgs, a tap root and trunk without branches.
Generation after generation his relations near-and-far paid their genes forward. Geologic and climactic cataclysm provided the drama.
6-17 million years ago basalt flows across the central Columbia River basin and Cascade, Coastal, and Olympic Mountains rise. Atlantic salmon and brown trout become distant cousins.
5 million years ago the Columbia River and its tributaries become stable. Pacific salmonids do what comes naturally, go with the flow.
2 million years ago glaciers come and go talking of Michelangelo. Glacial Lake Missoula and Glacial Lake Columbia fill and empty. The Cordilleran Ice Sheet sends the Pend Oreille River right through the old Li’l Spokane home. Whitefish play the different hands dealt to them.
Gathering up these facts, Mister White came to some concluding images. For starters the past five million years hadn’t changed his kind much. Mirror, mirror on the wall, and some describe his back a faint coppery green or bluish gray. So much depends on a certain slant of light. Most would agree that his sides and belly are a silvery white. His scales are larger and coarser than his trout and salmon cousins. If anyone bothered, they’d count one, two, three . . . eight scales along his lateral line.
And, of course, no good family history is worth its salt without a good anecdote or two. Close encounters with celebrities always add spice to the genealogical stew. One story goes that way back in 1805 one of his relatives had a run in with Meriwether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery.
History tells us that Meriwether Lewis was tall, rugged, smart, and moody. He liked to drink so much that he was court-martialed for talking back to his boss, William Clark. It got so bad the plan was to settle it with pistols.
Turns out nobody got shot because it’s not so much what you do but who you know. Again history tells us that Meriwether Lewis was President Jefferson’s next-door neighbor. Of course, all was forgiven. Lewis could have spent the rest of his life splitting fire wood and digging outhouse pits, but instead Jefferson sent the boy-next-door to study with professors at the University of Pennsylvania. There Lewis learned a lot of useful things like how to look for woolly mammoths and spot Welsh-speaking Indians.
Long story short Meriwether Lewis set off with the Corps of Discovery. Eventually they found themselves kicking around in the upper Missouri River drainage and caught one of Mister White’s relatives. Mister White liked to think his relative was hooked by Troy, William Clark’s boyhood companion, adventure-mate, and slave. It’s not clear that either Mister White’ relative or Troy was allowed to spit the hook from their cheek.
At some point Lewis wrote in his journal that Mister White’s relative was “bottle-nosed.” Metaphors are a curious thing, and Lewis’ words took Mister White back to the Little Spokane of his youth. He recalled swimming among the noses of Olympia beer bottles. He pictured the words “it’s the water” on the labels. He imagined the beer of the Little Spokane running freely. Foam lay in the eddies and upon the banks.
Mister White wondered what to think about his genealogy. Some folks feel good. Some folks become part of a story with characters. They feel they have a place in a bigger picture. All Mister White felt was sick. Sure, his genealogy told him stories with characters and gave him a place to call home. It’s just that he didn’t like the epilogue. He didn’t like the “fifty years later . . .”
Not knowing what else to do, Mister White set his mind to going with the current. He decided he needed a distraction. He wanted to get rid of the nausea all this genealogy had stirred up. He came to the gates of the Dartford Cemetery and made his way to the back. Here he entered the Dream Fishing the Little Spokane Library.
On one of the library’s empty shelves, he pulled a slim, four-by-six volume of poems. Inside the author had written an inscription on the title page, “Read to schools of whitefish along the Little Spokane.” Mister White continued reading, and soon he saw visions. He pictured the fish heads of his generation stewed in innocence, pulling themselves through the algae bloom at sunset gasping for a blessed breath.
Mister White then heard 13,000 years of human voices and watched his children drown.
Thanks be to Allen Ginsberg, “Howl.” Howl and Other Poems, City Lights Publishers, 1956.
Thanks be to T. S. Eliot. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. June 1915.
What Anais Nin Said
Anais Nin came to the Little Spokane River after an abortion sometime in early 1930. Had the pregnancy been the result of a union with her father, composer Joaquin Nin? Recently he said to her, "What a tragedy that I find you and cannot marry you." When she was ten, he took nude photographs of her.
Was it with her husband, banker Hugh Guiler? She thought him supportive, he a sturdy palm with deep roots and she an epiphytic orchid lying in the crook of his branch, her diaphanous roots hanging in the humid air. Harmless, she needed him, a water lily resting on the blue of Monet.
Or maybe it was with her lover, writer Henry Miller. She felt her time with him dizzying, swelling with enthusiasm, symphonic.
“Hey, Anais, look at this painting somebody put out.”
“Can’t be worth anything if it’s in the trash. Henry, let’s go to the Les Deux Magots. I’m dying for absinthe!”
“Sure, Anais, but I am in love with this painting, blind, blind. To be blinded forever! I am already miserable with regret.”
Anais was attracted to the Waikiki Ranch sitting along the Little Spokane River just below Dartford and just above Selheim Springs. She thought the word Waikiki dark, wild, aligned with the yearning of her soul. The state of her life, a pregnancy and now an abortion, made her cry out, “To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy. I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous—lava, inflammable, unrestrained.”
Her passion had propelled her from Paris ten days ago. First in a steamship and then on a train, she now found herself transported in a Packard Phaeton automobile. All about she was stirred by the primeval forest of magnificent and virile ponderosa red pines. She passed under the entrance sign WAIKIKI and entered the estate. She felt like a winged creature, and she desperately wanted to use her wings.
Stepping from the car and toward the mansion door, Anais saw a man she disliked. His demeanor was reserved, impotent, insipid, ordinary. She judged him a man whom life makes spent. Anais said under her breath, “I am not like him.”
The man, Jay P. Graves, introduced himself and welcomed Anais to Waikiki Ranch. He said he was honored to have as his guest such a distinguished Parisian woman of arts and letters. He explained that his ranch was the most modern, healthful, and sanitary dairy in the American Pacific Northwest. His herd was an ancient breed of cattle from the Bailiwick of Jersey. He was proud that the dairy was regularly checked by the state inspector. He described the ranch’s thirty bubbling, sparkling springs. He had built the Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad and the Nine Mile Hydroelectric Dam. He had been a Whitworth College Trustee and a Spokane Country Club founder.
Mr. Graves told Anais that after she became settled, she had free rein to explore the grounds.
Anais’ response was a lie. She chose to dissemble that she was demure. She thought saying little would give the impression she was deep. She wanted to envelope Waikiki Ranch in her silence, in her naiveté and innocence, in her femininity.
Anais recorded what came next on a piece of letter paper with her Meteore Art Deco fountain pen. She began keeping a diary as a letter to her father when she was eleven and had continued ever since. Although this page has been lost, the description of her experience shows that Anais had the strength and courage to treat the Little Spokane River as a woman.
I was born a woman, but when I come to the Little Spokane River, I enter it as a man. I lie in the womb of the Little Spokane and gather strength. I nourish myself from this fusion, and then I rise and go into the world, into my work, into battle, even into art. The memory of my swim in amniotic fluid gives me energy, completion.
When I lie in the Little Spokane’s womb, the river is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of me within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and bearing. The climax is the moment I rest inside of her.
When she had finished writing, Anais recalled standing on the bank of the Little Spokane. The river’s water was deliciously cold and dripped from her like ambrosia from the delta of Venus.
She asked herself whether or not she had ever experienced happiness. Imagining herself the passionate, quivering belted kingfisher sitting on a cottonwood snag overhead, she replied, “Hardly any.”