"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

31 January 2010

The Weekender's Penance

All things for a price, this is the nature of the deal. It is only the cheap things, which can be purchased with folding paper and jingling coins. Blood and karma is the true currency of the cosmos.

Recently, as in it was noted by local media, at the large tunnels at the Roof of the World, there has been a practice called metering. This is meant to control traffic along the Road. More to the point, a means of letting backed-up autos park within the tunnels themselves. This would most logically be because of a decided lack of ventilation that would allow carbon monoxcide poisoning should there be several autos parked within the tunnels.

In our little Sahel it is a given on the socially constructed weekend that traffic is going to, at times, resemble rush hour within the borders of a major city. West or east, depending upon which part of said socially constructed weekend one is on. The metering practice seems to happen more frequently-and amusingly, I might add, for us locos-on the east-bound day.

Want to weekend in the mountains? Ski? Hike? Climb? Snowboard? Snowshoe? See whichever relative? Get away from it all? Swell. There is a price to be paid. Part of that price is the other thousands of weekenders who had the same brillant idea.

A socially constructed weekend winds down, and the Road heading east looks like quite the metaphoric parking lot. Checking conditions, it's this way from about twenty miles west of the Roof of the World to the eastern edge of our little Sahel.

I cannot help but chuckle at the circumstance as I relax with some music and contemplate making a cup of tea. All those weekenders are trying oh so hard to get home, and their penance is the traffic they must endure to get home. And here I'm already snug at home.

I have already done my penance and paid my price...

29 January 2010

Further Solar Meditations

Since noticing the return of direct sunlight, I have noticed how it has come just a little bit earlier each following day. How it lingers just a little longer before disappearing behind the ridge line once more. The way there's more and more of this part of the valley that receives the sun's warm life-giving glow. These tiny increments seem like such a huge thing here and now.

It really is kind of amazing. The tilt of the world upon its axis and the placement of a mountain peak means all the difference between light and shadow. A little bit of magic wrapped up in scientific fact.

In days like this and times like these do I realize what an effect the sun has. Although the outside air temperature is just a little below freezing, by virtue of the sunlight, it feels warmer. The house feels comfortable without the benefit of burning a fire or wearing a sweater. I find, in general, I just feel...glad. The sun, like hope, has returned to the world. The gray apathy of deep winter has lifted its pall.

It is amazing. A spot of real magic. Simply just amazing.

28 January 2010


There was but a dusting of fresh powder to start the day. just enough to make the accumulated snow look fresh and clean. It's getting on that time of year when the snow on ground is crusted and dirty, tinted by road dust and the soot from a season of burning fires. Only when one goes out into the bush does the snow still look white.

Not too long ago, my sister was telling me how the ski areas up and over did not have the best conditions. Here, on the other side, our local ski area was getting dumped on. Looking straight west, I can see to the Roof of the World, and use this vantage as a bit of a weather gage. That frontier, that bit of demarcation, which marks where the continent splits in half, carries a certain sense of magic and balance and, sometimes, all the difference between storm and sun, one season or another, night and day.

Up and over, and further to the south, has been where a good deal of the recent snows have fallen. Ski areas rejoice and snowpack for runoff increases. At a guess, there'll be plenty of water for the farms and wineries along the western slope. In the American Maghreb, water is quite the precious commodity. Some places moreso than others.

Whilst I've not heard or read anything about the water table being below average on this side of the Roof of the World, it hasn't seemed to have snowed as much. I suppose I should qualify that; in our little Sahel, surrounded by its tall and sheer peaks, the snow doesn't stick around quiet as long. Or, perhaps, the snow does not have much to adhere to as up and over, or even in wider and flatter valleys east of the smaller tunnels, which mark that end our Sahel. And I have heard that some places further east, borough townships in the greater metroplex, or parts of the badlands of the plains, have gotten more snow than us here.

Not that I worry. My Kashmir being just ten miles east of the Roof of the World, and along a river, is in a wetland. The House of Owls and Bats was built upon what was once a beaver bog, before it became cattle pasture for. There are points during the spring runoff when parts of backyard squish, or there's standing water. Supposedly, this is a great place to garden. Just about anything can grow in the black, rich soil. A supposition we mean to test come spring.

Looking out at the powder, I can imagine some of the local snowbums are happy. Even some of the ones who come from further-flung locals. Not being into skiing or snowboarding, I cannot say it makes much difference to me other than from the auspice of water. I'd rather not have to deal with wildfires come summer.

25 January 2010

Sol's Kiss

The thing about living in a narrow rift-like valley surrounded by eleven and twelve thousand foot peaks is that the sun ends up playing a bit of peek-a-boo. A shaded darkness, caused by a lack of direct sunlight, can happen at odd times of day. Sometimes, there are stretches of time where there is no direct sunlight altogether.

I refer to this time as the long dark. A period from mid-autumn to midwinter. Roughly six weeks. During that six week span, our little portion of the valley is shrouded in shadow, which stretches down the Road, as Mount Pendleton blocks the sun's rays. Looking out the front windows, we can see dollops of golden daylight across the river, on the other side of the valley, up the Bull's head, and gracing the peak of my personal Kilimanjaro.

It happens slowly. A sensation that is felt more than seen. Just one day, the sun is gone. To those of us in the Pendleton's shadow, that's pretty well when winter begins.

Then, almost as imperceptibly as it happened, the light begins to creep back. We watch it across the river. Slowly, day by day, the sun's rays expand across the valley floor. Things get brighter. Then, one day, there is daylight along the Old Road, and the silhouette of trees and houses, illuminated by the sun itself stands out in such stark resolve against the crusted deep winter snow, it's almost shocking. Suddenly, our little pocket of nowhere, here beyond the edge of the world, does not seem quite so cold.

Once more, the daystar has returned, and I find myself smiling. It's a bit like that first kiss when you first fall in love. Space-time just stops and an infinite cosmos of possibilities opens up. Everything is perfect. Literally, everything is just a little brighter.

24 January 2010

Seeing Dragons

In Chinese folk belief, there are the Long Wang. These are the Dragon Kings, the Gods of Rain and Funerals. Kind of a nifty title there. I have always liked dragons, even and especially the Asian ones. They have been known to bring good luck.

The quickest way to describe myself theologically is as a heretical Tibetan Buddhist. I like the shamanic aspects incorporated from Bon and Buddhism has always made sense to me as a philosophy. There are other aspects to my stitched together theology and silly superstitions, of course; bits of Gnosticism, various folk beliefs from around the world, Kabbalah, ancient Egyptian, native American, Taoism, Shinto, Voodoo, maybe even some Pagan and/or Muslim. My sister once remarked if I hadn't practiced a religion, even for just a bit, I had least read some about it. I think she meant that in a good way.

I do believe in pluralism. That there is more than one way to be in touch with the Divine, of which names such as Elohim, Vishnu, Dharma, the Force, Blessed Sophia, Goddess, and the like or just masks we place over it in order to make sense out what it is we're seeing. To me, wandering some trail out in the bush is being in the presence of the Divine, just as looking up at the peaks surrounding our narrow little rift-like valley is. Sometimes, I think trying to explain my particular view of theology and the Divine is right up there with trying to explain fire to an australopithecus, which borders upon quite impossible for several reasons, most notably of which is australopithecus have been extinct for a couple million years. So, I pretty well stick to the simplification of heretical Tibetan Buddhist and save the more drawn out explanation for discussions and debates on theology, which I don't get into half as much as I used to.

I am fascinated with perceptions. How one's worldview can color and shape the visual information their eyes are receiving. The facts and what belief and memory have to say about and add to that.

Where someone with a more Abrahamic belief would see evidence of their one god and angels, I see gods and bodhisattvas and spirits and Chinese dragons in cumulonimbus clouds. I have taken to calling thunderheads dragon clouds. Another way I can tell the seasons are changing is when I see the Long Wang slithering and coiling across the sky or when they disappear, replaced by the mare's tails, cobwebs, and glacial storm walls, which come with the colder seasons.

A few years ago, I was at the joe job I was doing at the time. It was summer, during the monsoon season. A particularly impressive storm rolled through in the late afternoon hours. A maelstrom, which got some of the more devout of the Abrahamic faiths to recall a particular flood.

The storm finally broke and the sun appeared once more. There were still dragon clouds as the sun began to set. And it was a spectacular sunset, with hues of flame and gold against the royal blue of a darkening sky.

"God really is something, painting the sky like that, isn't he?" A coworker asked me. Then, she remembered I wasn't Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you."

"None taken," I said. "Have I ever told you about the Long Wang?"

She shook her head to indicate I had not. So, I told her about the Dragon Kings, the Lords of Rain and Funerals, to which she listened with a tolerant smile on her face. She too was one who believed there was more than one way to be in touch with the Divine. After awhile, we went back to watching the sunset.

"Kind of amazing when you think about it," I mused after a little bit. "An atheist would say we're just seeing clouds. Groupings of frozen water particles. And yet you see the hand of your god and I see Chinese dragons."

"The Lord..." she caught herself, smiled that tolerant smile, and touched my arm. "The Lords work in mysterious ways."

22 January 2010

Gray Day

There was some damage from the previous night's windstorm; one of the porch tables blown into the side yard, Milarepa's outdoor water dish blown over by her dogloo, the lid of our recycle bin blown off, and one of the strings of Buddhist prayer flags along the front fence was broken. The house itself was not damaged, of course. All the other things were more minor annoyances than anything. I know it could have been far worse.

Sure, I suppose I could be upset about the prayer flags, but that would be so thoroughly unBuddhist of me. If anything, it's a lesson in impermanence. Someday, the other half of that string will snap, and the mountain winds will carry the set of prayer flags far and away. So it goes.

Supposedly, deeper into the American Maghreb, there is quite the storm. Up and over and further away, it's snowing. Here, just ten miles east of the Roof of the World, in that Morocco, Land Furthest West, which I think of as my Kashmir, it's just overcast. A gray day.

Years and lifetimes ago, when Jezebel and I lived together, down in the city, we would react with childlike glee at the prospect of a gray day. Perhaps it was because gray is Jezzy's favorite color and Grey figures so much into my name that this made perfect sense. We would rush about the flat we shared, making sure to get ready as soon as we could, and enjoy as much of the day as possible.

There were trips to the zoo and museums. We'd grab a cup of coffee and terrorize various shoppes along Colfax and Broadway. Wandering parks and looking at old houses. Perusing ancient books and ogling over antiques. Driving around, just to burn fuel, smoking cigarettes, listening to music, and talking.

Those were the days. When Jezzy and I were in the middle of them, whilst we enjoyed them, I don't think we ever really thought they'd end. That we'd both eventually stop smoking. That she'd move to the burough township of Saudi within the greater metroplex and I'd disappear into the mountains. That we would find our respective mates and move into our own little lives with them, which involved the once-a-week phone call to one another.

Sometimes, when we're talking, the gray days come up. Most often when it's overcast. We speak in nostalgic tones about this adventure or that. Some conversation we had or a song playing during a game of rummy at Paris on the Platte. We sigh and chuckle and resolve to do something respectively with the next gray day.

As I look out the bay window at the overcast, I catch myself feeling that ting of excitement. That pull to go and do...something. Anything. A wide world of adventure lies beyond my front door, poised beneath gray day skies. It's up to me to get out there and enjoy it.

21 January 2010


Our house, the House of Owls and Bats, is a one-hundred thirty year old miner's cabin, fashioned in the Victorian style. Sure, over the intervening years from its initial construction to when we bought it, it has received certain modern amenities, such as running water and electricity. A few more rooms and a bay window. But, most of the windows are still single-pane and the insulation is almost non-existent. Our primary source of heat during the winter is the woodstove.

Outside, the wind, blown from the high peaks and passes around the Roof of the World, whips and howls in a banshee's choir. Puffs of smoke will sometimes be blown out of the damper on the stove. During certain gusts, the very house itself creaks and groans and we are left to wonder if the next breeze is going to bring it all down around our ears.

Yes, the wind around here can be vicious. Gales, which cause whiteouts or snow devils in winter and borderline duststorms on the tailing's piles at other times of year. Since the wind blows here almost all the time, it's one of the reasons we consider a small turbine at some point down the road, it turns out to be feasible.

The nice man at the sustainable energy place we visited up and over said it might depend on what our average wind speed was or if we got enough of it. If there is one thing I have observed, both in the mountains and out on the lone prairie, there is always a little bit of a breeze. It seems to only be within the borders of the greater metroplex that there is sometimes absolutely no wind, but stifling, stagnate air. Given the rest of this part of the world, that's something I find more than a little queer.

Five hundred vertical feet down the mountain, and a township away, the winds can be stronger. This is because of both the Roof of the World and Guanella Pass. The wind picks up speed as it rips across the loch, where gales of hurricane force have been recorded. There are stories of the windows of vehicles being blown out by a strong gust, showering drivers and passengers with shrapnel of broken glass. It can get rather scary around the junction too, where the wind meets up with what comes off of Berthod Pass.

In our little Sahel there are four townships and three village/hamlets. From roughly seven-thousand, five-hundred, twenty-six feet, to the ninety-one eighteen where we are, it is amazing to note the way the weather can change. From every municipality to settlement, it is as if we all have our own little micro-climate. Predicting the weather in Colorado has always been more of a joke and a hobby than a profession-the old joke of waiting five minutes for the weather to change. In the mountains, doubly so.

Last winter, even the old timers could not remember it being so blustery. This winter, I've not heard as many complaints, even though there have been those nights when the wind shakes our tiny little house, giving us cause to wonder if it won't all come down around our ears. I guess I shouldn't worry too much. The House of Owls and Bats has stood for one-hundred thirty years of snow, rain, runoff, and wind. Perhaps this ancient miner's cabin will stand for one-hundred thirty more.

20 January 2010

A Study of a Mountain Mourning [Deep Winter]

The mourning quiet is broken by Milarepa barking at a passing dog. This lasts long enough for the dog in question to disappear from line of sight. The relative quiet of the mourning returns. Coffee brews and I consider whether or not to fry some bacon for breakfast or warm up the rest of the Tunisian chakchouka. The Beatles' Lovely Rita is playing on the radio.

I used to joke I wanted to date a girl named Rita so I could play that song. Of course, it was once remarked I wanted to go out with a Chinese girl so I could play David Bowie's Little China Girl for her. My humor is as such. Sometimes, when the Cracker song Euro-Trash Girl plays within the walls of my skull, I think of Sabina as my angel in black.

Meteorological prophesy foretells of temperatures not even reaching the thirties on the fahrenheit scale. Possible flurries. The dusting from the night before was gone like a dreamtime phantasm upon waking. The sun shines, muted by thin clouds, along the Bull's Head. Along the peak of the mountain I refer to as my personal Kilimanjaro, the snowcap shimmers amongst the bare rock.

There is scheming to make the hop up and over. I require blue jeans. Well, I special ordered them-the joys of my height and skeletal build-a little while back and they've finally arrived. I have the money to make the purchase. Another errand or two will get run as to justify the sixty mile 'round trip. Part of living where we do, something I learned growing up on a farm, is running errands is usually, minimum, ten miles, one way. It is part of the price to be paid.

And all things have a price. This is the nature of the deal. It is only the cheap things, which we purchase with coins and folding paper.

After this hop, any real need for errands will be at an end for a few days. We can go walkabout, a snowshoe, or whatever else. There is the possibility of receiving company, twice, over the next few days, but both visits are still in the initial stages. We have time to get the house in order.

Here and now, I take a swig of water and inhale the lovely aroma of freshly-brewed coffee. I still haven't decided on breakfast or what to wear for the day. Alanis Morissette comes on the radio and I give a small muse toward dinner and the possibility of making croutons. Little things.

None of it is a horribly huge deal. Things to be figured out. After all, I have time.

17 January 2010

That Feeling in the Air

It is something you cannot see, taste, or smell, but there comes a time during the winter when the feeling of the air shifts. Suddenly, imperceptibly, the cold in the air starts to loose its teeth. It's not quite as cold. A far-flung omen, foretelling of spinning of the cyclic wheel. Sooner than thought, the seasons will once again shed its skin.

The crusted snow in front of the house is softer. Almost snowball or snowman making in its quality. What was packed along the roadway turns slush. There is liquid water in some places, showing melt. The dog's outdoor water dish has not frozen over when fresh water is placed therein. Breath is not visible when exhaling.

Part of me wants to argue the fact. I have acclimated to this environment, and, after a few months of cold temperatures, I've grown used it. It's still winter. There is still not any direct sunlight on the house. That's still a week or more away.

But I know different. It's sensation I get every winter. Sometimes, earlier than others. That first omen, which tells me this won't last forever.

It stirs a little bit of excitement in me. Knowing there will be a time when boots and sweaters and heavy coats and nightly fires will not be necessary. The river will unfreeze and plants will bloom. There'll be different birds coming to the feeder, even, eventually hummingbirds. We'll be able to grill outside comfortably, and even eat out on the porch or in the yard.

Looking west, I can see a parasol of gray cloud. Thinner than earlier in the season. It's not quite as intimidating. There is a slight chance of flurries, but, at this altitude, flurries can come in high summer if the conditions are right.

Here and now, it is a pleasant high country afternoon. Not sunny and bright, but not a blizzard, forcing us all to hole up and hope we have enough supplies to weather the storm. It's still daylight. I find myself smiling, embracing the feeling in the air. It fills me with a sense of hope.

14 January 2010

Sprouting Seeds

We try to live as mindfully, simply, and sustainably as possible. This has been a slow and ongoing process. One, which, in some ways, is an excise in formidable patience.

Long, long ago, I decided that when I owned my own piece of property, I would have a garden. Maybe a even few chickens, because, and I know this from experience, there are few things better than farm-fresh eggs. There was also the idea of reusing gray water, as well as capturing rainwater and snowmelt, getting solar and perhaps even wind power.

These schemes didn't have so much to do with the whole thing-some might call a fad-of being green, but of just being self-sufficient. A few less things to buy when stocking up on market day. A little less-if any-money being paid to the local energy consortium. I like my Independence, my anonymity, and anything that can help strengthen that position, I'm all for it.

Thankfully, someone came into my life, and was wanting to share theirs with me, who held a similar viewpoint. From moving to the mountains, to the idea of gardening in some form or fashion, to solar and wind power, and perhaps sinking a well to get off township water, Sabina has been all for it. Sometimes, she's almost been more relentless about the idea than I have. I find this wonderful just on principal and also rather encouraging, to what some might think of as lunacy.

As spring slowly approaches, a yet barely perceptible feature on the event horizon, we begin researching gardening. I would like to someday have a greenhouse to grow things year 'round, but we compromised to start out with a garden, as to see just how green our thumbs are. The big challenge, of course, is finding what will not only grow, but thrive, at an elevation of nine-thousand one-hundred eighteen feet.

So, there has been the hops to gardening and hydroponic shoppes up and over. Sabina found several links and purchased an ample amount of back copies of Mother Earth News. We've talked with some of our neighbors. The research has been intriguing and entertaining.

It has started. Another baby step in slow process living mindfully, simply, and sustainably. Seeds of ideas grow within the walls of our skulls, germinating into full grown schemes. I find myself possessed of a certain excitement for spring; the retreating snows and budding aspens, but also for the seeds we might place in dirt, and just what our tentative garden might grow.

13 January 2010

Chasing Holes

Spiced Moroccan shrimp was just what was needed to clear my sinuses. I used hot smoked Spanish paprika on this batch since it was just me eating it. Sabina was having sushi. The New Belgium Mothership Wit beer went in perfect context for the meal. Sometimes, beer goes better with food than wine. Mostly with spicy stuff, stir-fry, or American southern. At least in my opinion.

For being deep winter, my sinuses, driven by allergies, were fucking with me. It was quite unpleasant, but that's not a shocking statement for anyone who has allergies. Try as I might, I cannot figure out what specifically started it, although, I believe it was up on the Bull's Head.

Logically, that would mean I ran into some latent pollen spore from one of the pines or perhaps some mold hiding somewhere in the mine ruins by the Diamond Tunnel. I suppose it doesn't matter. From early on in the walkabout, I had to deal with my allergies.

But that did not ruin the trek. It was another lovely false spring day. Sunny, light winds, and relatively warm. After reaching the top of the Bull's Head, Sabina, outright vetoing my idea to scrabble down the front face because of the deep snow up top, wanted to go look for some holes she'd spied by virtue of binoculars from our front porch, toward the trial's western end. Although I wasn't necessarily in the mood to deal with my lifemate's fetish for trying to crawl into holes in the living earth, I acquiesced on the condition that next time we did the Bull's Head, we'd do the scrabbling.

So, we crawled up the south-facing slope of a mountain. It was honeycombed with closed off mining and vent holes. Parts of these mountains, even and especially in our little Sahel, where mining was such a big thing, are all but hollow now. Back in those bygone days, it was like so many ants, digging deep for the treasures contained therein.

The hole Sabina so dearly wanted to reach, the one she'd been eyeing from our front porch for the last two years, turned out to be little more than a crevice in the living stone of the mountain. It was possible, noting some of the discoloration on the rock, that someone may have had a fire there once, but it could have also been mineral deposits. There was the simultaneous sensation of accomplishment and disappointment.

So, we went and got beer. Sabina had sushi I'd picked up for her the night before and I made myself spicy Moroccan shrimp. Extra spicy. My sinuses, which had been fucking with me since the beginning of the walkabout, cleared. For me, that was an added accomplishment to the day.

10 January 2010

False Spring Whispers

I take a certain comfort in my mourning rituals. The taking of vitamins and brewing of coffee, whilst setting out the next day's supplementals and grinding the next day's coffee beans. Checking in on and feeding our familiars. The gathering of firewood and splitting of kindling when necessary. Making breakfast and checking correspondences and the news of the wide world. Shaves and showers.

Perhaps it's the idea of routine. A little order in a universe rife with chaos. The illusion that whatever else might be happening, but at least I have something like that fall back on. Maybe I just find zen in those few simple things in the name of living a more simplistic life.

The day has shown itself to be another mild one. If meteorological prophecy is to be believed, it's supposed to reach the mid-thirties on the fahrenheit scale. Soft daylight bathes a greater portion of the valley. Checking the weather for the rest of the week, it's supposed to be mild, with only a slight chance of snow later in the week. This fills me with joy, knowing the prospect of a walkabout, without having to bundle up too much, may be a very real possibility.

I believe I'm seeing an omen of false spring. One of my buddies sometimes speaks of a midwinter lull, when the temperatures are mild and it's not only acceptable, but perhaps even expected, to wash the winter's grime from one's vehicle. Such a period would not be so bad. After a month or more of just cold and snow over and over again, it's nice to have a break. It certainly keeps everyone from going stir-crazy.

In a little bit, after the last of my coffee is drank, a walk around the township seems in order. Personally, I find walking to be a wonderful tool for meditation, as well as exercise. More than likely, some of the other citizenry will be out, soaking in the sun and slightly warmer air. There might possibly be ski-bums playing horseshoes in back of the cantina.

Later in the evening, Sabina and I have talked about going to the locals jam up at the Large Town Hall. We'll take a bottle of wine and listen to improvised folk and bluegrass. It's always fun, and it's been awhile since I've been out to enjoy such things. Still, evening's a few hours off and the possibly of going for a walk is now.

I should get to it, after all, I'm burning daylight...

09 January 2010


Perhaps Sabina read my mind. Or maybe she had similar thoughts about snowshoeing. In any case, that's what we ended up doing for our walkabout.

The walkabout had already been discussed and decided upon over the past week. We'd not been out wandering the bush as much we usually did over the last two months. The best-and shortest-way to put it was life happened and had gotten in the way. An excuse, perhaps, but that's what ended up happening. So it goes.

I figured on the Bull's Head. Its rock face borders the northern edge of our little township, face-first to the cantina. An easy trek. Maybe an hour, at most. There would be some ice to contend with around the Diamond Tunnel, but I figured, at worst, we might want to wear our snowpants, in case there were some drifts.

"How about the BLT?" Sabina offered as we got up and about our day.

The BLT, the Baker-Loveland Trail, is but five miles up the Road from home. Its trailhead is in the same area as Gray's and Torey's, the two nearby fourteeners. We'd talked about riding our bikes along the BLT come summer. Although we'd be driving to the trailhead, it would be something different, and, at ninety-eight hundred feet, there was deeper snow, which was not wind-blown. This meant packing the snowshoes.

Oh, fuck yes...

So, we had breakfast and got the fixings for chili into the crockpot. Got dressed and loaded our gear into Kali. It was a little before noon when we set off, reaching the trailhead by midday.

It was a pleasant trek. Unlike so many of the trails around home, the BLT is a little more public. Although, with it being winter, we encountered only the occasional snowshoers or cross-country skiers. There was no wind and the ambient air temperature was mild. The Road ran nearby, but, by virtue of the snow and woods, it was not overly loud.

Five miles, roundtrip. We both found our legs sore in muscles we didn't even know we owned. Be that as it may, it was wonderful. Wonderful to be off in the bush. Wonderful to finally get in a snowshoe. Wonderful to be alive.

Sabina mused how cats from other times and other lives would not understand our desire to go wandering out in the snow. Fair enough. Cliche wisdom states it takes different strokes. I cannot understand the desire to sit around and watch television all day, perhaps owing to the fact we do not own one.

Later now, worn out from the workout that is snowshoeing, I already scheme for another walkabout. Hopefully, within the next couple of days. We have obligations to attend to, but we also have a couple of free days. I'm pretty set on the Bull's Head, because it's close and quick. There's a set of Buddhist prayer flags I left up top, and I'd like to see if they're still there. I'm confident it'll be gotten to. We have time.

08 January 2010

Deep Winter

Last year, it seemed as though winter barely counted. Sure, there it got rather cold around the holidays, but that evened out after a week or two. Shortly after the Gregorian perception of the new year, we enjoyed something of a false spring. The real blizzards didn't hit until spring, and one of those closed the Road, leaving an eerie silence, even moreso than that usually caused by the snow.

This year, the first snow fell shortly before the autumnal equinox. The first blizzard, just days before All Hallows Eve. Here in the mountains, the Winter Solstice can be just a day, and the first day of winter, just a point of view.

Within the walls of our narrow, high-peaked rift-like valley, there's not much snow. Oh, it falls, and there's probably about six inches of the stuff on ground. That snow is hard and wind-blown. Wind, blown from the Roof of the World and those high peaks and passes, whips through, chasing the fresh-fallen powder away. That's not to say there's not deeper patches of snow in some places in our little Sahel. Depressions where the wind does not reach. Still, it's not been very conducive for snowshoeing.

The cold has been a little more unrelenting this year. This high up, after a point, the mercury getting above freezing becomes something, which is reminisced fondly, or waited for some month or two down the road. Sometimes, the temperature might get into the thirties on the fahrenheit scale, but, this year, it has thus far averaged in the teens and twenties, and we've had our share of single digits and below, not even factoring that wind.

Not too long ago, someone mentioned winter is one of the things that can test one's mettle in the mountains. Even and especially in our pocket of nowhere. There are those from the flatlands and other far-flung locals, who will speak of loving it here and wanting so dearly to stay. Such cats may go as far as renting or buying property.

And then winter comes. Winter is long. Winter is dark. Winter is cold.

It's not for everyone. I can admit when the mercury gets to those single digits and the joints of my twisted skeleton snap! crackle! pop! with every move that I sometimes question my rational. Of course, then I look at those towering peaks and remember why. This is home. I could be nowhere else.

The cold and the pain it sometimes inflicts is but the price to be paid. And all things carry a price. Only the cheap things can be purchased with folding paper and jingling coins.

It is one of those colder evenings, where the mercury hovers in those lower digits on the fahrenheit scale. The woodstove crackles and pops as the fire consumes another pine log. Sabina and I set about making a supper, which consists of a north African charmoula on salmon and Indian spiced spinach. We have iced boat drinks in defiance of the cold.

Oh, us kookie mountain folk...

The next time the sun rises, there will be milder temperatures and a walkabout. We have began to notice how the daylight lingers just a little bit longer. It's deep winter now, and the skiers and boarders prey for fresh powder, and it would be nice to maybe get in at least one good snowshoe. Still, part of me can almost taste those first cabin-feverdreamed omens of spring.

04 January 2010

Meditiations on Aging

Ever had one of those moments of looking into the mirror and realize you've aged? Maybe it's after some comedy, tragedy, irony, agony, or ecstasy. Something that hits between the eyes, like a two-ton heavy thing, the mourning after one of those wild nights out or on a birthday. A solemn moment of so-it-goes acceptance before burying one's face in a big pile of sh...aving cream.

A week ago, driving out to my parents' house, I was blaring L.A. Guns. Man, that took me back. A deja vu of twenty years ago, after my family moved back from the rural south, tooling around the badlands of eastern Colorado, listening to some cock-rock. Of course, I was going to be leaving my parents' house at some point and going back to my own. After L.A. Guns, I was going to be listening to some Italian pop. My hair might still be long, but these days, there are streaks of gray amongst the dysfunctional calico.

There was a period where I existed in sort of denial of my chronological age. I didn't really lie about it, but I didn't come right out and say it neither. Back then, when queried, I would answer by saying I was twenty-one for however-many-years-in-a-row, like it would make me come across as younger than I really was. I must admit, it was sometimes amusing to watch the cat who asked me do the mental gymnastics of the math within the walls of their skull.

But one day, a mourning after a party, when I was realizing I was not nearly as young as I once thought, but not so old as fuck off somewhere, being all nostalgic-like about back-in-the-day, and play golf, I realized it might just be okay to own up to my chronological age. I found it to be far less painful than I initially anticipated, and, upon reflection, I find myself happier or, at least, more at peace, because of it. Of course, more than one cat has remarked I look younger than I actually am. I joke it's because of clean living and mainlining Oil of Olay.

I do find time to be an abstract. Sometimes, I feel as though millennia have passed from one epoch of my life to the next. There have been instances when it seems like but hours, maybe days, have elapsed from an event, which may have happened months ago.

And I had one of those moments, this very mourning, right before shaving. Noticing a couple more crow's feet near the eyes. Another cobweb strand of gray hair amongst the dysfunctional calico. For a moment, perhaps as long as the space between heartbeats, I just stared. Perhaps there was some shock and awe, or maybe it was just solemn moment of so-it-goes acceptance before burying my face in a big pile of sh...aving cream. It seems so long ago now, I can no longer tell.

Aging doesn't bother me as it once did. When I was younger, I saw getting older, as, well, getting old , and, therefore, getting closer to death. I eventually learned death didn't really care if it was young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor when it happened. My father is in his sixties, and is still going strong, just a little older, wiser, and more experienced than I. I have met cats who have been over one-hundred twenty since their fifth birthday. After that one joe job, where I danced with the dead for eight hours at a stretch, I learned one does not really get old until their eighties. Further proof to me that time is an abstract.

I am where I am; no longer a whelp, but yet to be an old man. And I'm rather fine with that. It's where I'm supposed to be along the abstract of my timeline. Having not mastered quantum physics and the manipulation of space-time, I can't really be anywhere else.