A Rut

I woke up this morning thinking about ruts. Writing ruts, preaching ruts, life ruts, wagon ruts. The examples swirled around in my not yet awake brain, and coalesced into a vague memory of living in the hills above Santa Barbara. Not the rich hills, at least not in the mid-80s, the country hills, the backwoods where folks had secluded homes because they, for the most part, weren’t too fond of noise or neighbor. There were some strange characters up there, such as the lady who walked around with a boa around her neck, the snake kind, not the adornment sort, and the man who had the house we lived in before we did. He had to move because Federal law enforcement thought his hillside land use was not advisable, so moved him out and took his marijuana plants with him. And then there was the fellow who lived on the same street but a number of miles farther along the road: Ronald Reagan. There was also the house right down the hill from ours, where a guy killed four family members. I seem to remember something about him doing so because aliens told him. I still remember this whenever I’m watching x-files, though I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that. Also, my brother has an interesting story related to this, as he was walking by that house not long before the murder took place, and someone (not the murderer) told him to get away from there. The details are fuzzy to me, so ask him about it when you see him next.

This was a backcountry sort of road, paved for a little bit, but then not maintained farther along. I bring this all up because my musings on ruts this morning brought to mind a rut on the side of this road, about two inches deep, that dug into rock. Probably because the road was used enough, other parts of this rut didn’t survive, but here, in this sandstone that extended to the side of the asphalt, there was this rut. Carved out from many wagons, I imagine, who had used this road to make the pass between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez valley. I emailed my dad to ask, and he replied, “Camino Cielo was part of a the regular stage coach route leading somehow from the Cold Spring Tavern down the backside a couple of miles and/or across the mountain ridge. Yes, there were wheel wide ruts in those large sandstone boulders; apparently the wagon went right by our property. The road bed probably was about the same, except that it is now paved.”

So, I remembered right.

That really doesn’t have anything to do with anything except it was a rut that I remembered that wasn’t a figurative sort of rut, which is the kind I tend to mostly experience these days. I’m not sure if I’m in a rut now, but I might be. If I am, I’m either coming out of it or coming into awareness of it because I’m realizing this rut is not where I want to be. Which is not necessarily obvious. Sometimes ruts are good, after all. A wagon rut keeps a wagon going straight on hardened trail. A rut in the snow makes for better cross country skiing. We might even call traditional liturgies a rut of sorts, well worn expressions of spirituality that provide a quicker course into times of deep, maybe even formational, worship. Sometimes the rut is needed. Sometimes the rut is a problem. The rut almost always lasts a lot longer than the reason it was made.

The rut I’m in is a writing sort of rut, but it’s not simply a writing rut. It goes deeper than that and my writing reflects it. So, I can’t exactly write myself out of this rut, because what would happen, as has happened before, is that my writing takes on the exact same tone, topics, issues, always orbiting the same root causes and going the exact same directions. Which is boring to read and it’s boring to write. Which is why, I think, I like commissioned sorts of writing, whether it be for a class or for another purpose. I posted a couple of recent commissioned writings and that’s probably why they have a different feel and flavor than a lot of my recent attempts at writing for writing’s sake.

This is a rut that I’m in that I don’t know what kind of rut I’m in just that I’m in it, moving along and could carry on in this rut for a good long while if I’m not careful. I want to get out of this rut, but that requires going beyond what I can presently perceive. Maybe that’s part of this new burst of writing, it helps unknot my mind so that the rut can become more obvious for what it is. My other response, today, was to get out of the apartment. I’m here at the LA Arboretum in my big red folding chair,with my wee netbook, and my bag of assorted things, such as books to read, a camera for pictures, and my 1.5 liter red aluminum water bottle. I’m sitting in a quietish corner of this park, where I don’t see or hear anyone around, except the freeway off in the distance. All around is the flora of Australia. I guess this makes this spot my mini-outback. Nothing like a bit of a walkabout to get out of a rut, right? Whatever this rut is.

Oh, and that house where the guy killed four people? It’s for sale.

Now I think I want to take some pictures of birds.

LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
LA County Arboretum
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