"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

30 August 2012

Season's Edge

We were on our pilgrimage to the Stupa when the possibility of changing leaves was first discovered. At first, we were not sure; after all, to reach our destination, we had to travel through a burn area, the different colors may have been caused by the flames and blast-furnace heat. Less than a week later, treks to the ruins of Waldorf and a walkabout up to Pavilion Point confirmed it; indeed, some of the leaves are turning, and summer in the High Country is winding down.

There are those who have prophesied an early autumn. I was once told the changing of leaves has more to do with the changes in available light than the ambient air temperature. If that is fact, just because the leaves might change early does not mean we are any closer to autumn or even winter, but these things cannot never be predicted with any certainty. Prophets do not know everything and oracles can be wrong.

The coming weekend is referred to as the last official weekend of summer. The death-rattle of the summer tourist season. Things will drop off for a bit before the lookie-loos come to see the aspens in a few weeks. It is a chance to count coffers and catch breath.

It has been a good summer. A decent monsoon helped to eradicate the macabre of the earlier wildfires. The temperatures have moderated with the coming of the rains. In our Sahel things have been lush and green.

When engaged in obligations, powerful people have voiced their pleasure at how fortune's wheel has spun. There has been rumors of pittance become more than a survivable wage, and something that might almost be livable. No promises have been made, but the rumors have their bases in fact.

I have accomplished bicycle rides in excess of twenty miles and the summiting of my personal Kilimanjaro this summer. Neither of which was necessarily planned. They just happened. Of course, I never plan anything. My favorite joke goes; want to make a deity laugh? Have a plan.

Whether it was the pilgrimage to the Stupa, or, the interaction with some ethnic Tibetans a few days after, I've found myself not quite as at odds with my heretical belief as I had been in the nearly three years since my mother's death, and almost two years since the bruja was killed. Though it is hard to place into language, there has been a certain sense of peace I've felt since those events that I did not realize I was missing until the sensation arose. I could almost call it a gift from summer.

As the season winds down, I find myself looking forward to the bardo before aspen season. My birthday is but a few days off, and a decade will have shed its chronological skin. The serenity of the thin mountain air has a particularly sweet taste. I am at peace. Summer has been good to us.

26 August 2012

Baobab Bones

It'd been two years since I'd come here, just above the ruins of Waldorf. Since I gave your requiem. That tree, the one we would picnic under years and lifetimes ago, the one you requested your immolated bones be left at, the one that reminds me of an African baobab, was no longer. Dead. A skeleton of wood reaching into the alpine sky. The magistrate had warned me of this, but the full implication didn't hit me between the eyes until I was standing right there.

It was vaguely disturbing, but I have learned and re-learned how nothing remains static. Trees might live longer than us, but, they too pass on. Even the stars die eventually. Forever is a myth at best, and a cruel joke at worst.

We strung a set of prayer flags through those gnarled old branches. Left a nod to your favorite beer. I bowed respectively to what could be considered your gravestone. Whistler, one of your champion show dogs, one of my monkey's paws inheritance from you, stood passively at my side, offering unspoken comfort. I whispered a hello to your memory, and that day we left you there.

Getting to the Baobab bones was something of a dysfunctional early birthday present to me. It is weeks still before what would've been your birthday, and months to go from what was your death-day. So it goes. Even though I can see the far ridge of the mountain where we left you, I was bitter sweetly gladdened that I got to stand in the shade of that tree once more.

But I'd give anything to see you once more; healthy, happy, and breathing. Being there reminds me how terribly I miss you. That dead tree, Whistler, Chevy, and my memories are all I have of you now, and I have to work on accepting that, even if I do not like it a bit.

23 August 2012

Broken Rosary

I had just reached the edge of the tent village when the mala you gave me finally broke. You know the one; that Buddhist rosary you hoped I'd wear if and when I'd go on pilgrimage to India with you. I felt a small twinge of sadness watching the beads scatter across the sand. After all, you gave it to me.

"Nothing lasts forever," I whispered to myself. "Mei fei tsu."

At the offering place, in the shadow of the Great Stupa, I fished those beads from my pocket. I found it remarkably easy to set them down, placing them atop a skull a previous pilgrim had left. I recited the mantra silently to myself, turning my attention to the Stupa itself.

It was a good day for my yearly bit of getting holy in the Buddhist context. It was a good day to be amongst friends and loved ones. It was a good day to let go.

Depending upon mood and superstition dictates how the breaking of that rosary can be interrupted; my fetters to you being broken, or perhaps that if we ever see one another again, we can start afresh. Maybe it's just that after so many years the string became fatigued and finally gave way, scattering beads across the sand. I do not pretend to know. Perhaps it doesn't matter anymore.

So it goes...

20 August 2012

The Demon's Mask

She's only about the nicest girl I've ever met. Any time we've encountered one another, she's nothing short of polite and gregarious to a fault. She constantly invites us to parties or other opportunities to hang out.

I am terrified of her...

It's not her, but me. My neurosis. It's not because of misanthropic tendencies, but breathing nightmares from my past. See, when I see her, I don't see her, unfortunately. I see someone else.

I see the face of a bygone lover who taught me profound lessons in fear and violation. The one who reminded me that there really is no justice. The one who invaded my home once and tried to attack me with a shard of broken glass. The author of some of my worst nightmares.

How do you explain that to someone? Tell them you're somewhat frightened of them because they look entirely too much like a personal demon? It's rather unfair to do to someone, but, in context, fair really has nothing to do with it. Just as there is no justice, there's no such thing as fair.

Any time I see her, I am nothing short of civil. I was raised with manners, of which, at times, have been called anachronistic, and she is only about the nicest girl I've ever met. Still, I walk away from the interaction shaking off a chill, trying to exorcise a demon from my psyche who wears the mask of someone who has nothing to do with it.

14 August 2012

The Next Wave

I became aware of it being late summer by virtue of a meteor shower, a ten degree drop in the daytime temperatures, and a rainy day. There were other little omens; the shift of light and shadow along the valley floor and surrounding mountainsides as the sun tracks across the sky-those incremental shifts in the orbit-cooler mornings, the scent of woodsmoke in the air on some nights. Words like autumn and snow begin to creep into the local lexicon of our Sahel once more.

The children are starting back to school. My daughter is beginning her senior year, which carries its own set of macabre in my worldview. It also means one is less likely to see gaggles of mewing, eking, unruly and puking babes amongst the crowds of tourists. At this point, with just two weeks before the unofficial end of summer-and but a few short shopping days before my birthday, I want a pony, by the way-one begins to see what sempi refers to a the grandparent tourists.

Grandparents, empty-nesters, and those who generally avoid individuals who are not yet of adulthood in the growth rate of the species or the eyes of prevailing laws of civilized society. The next wave in the ebb and flow of the summer tourist season. Part of the cycle.

They still ask questions. Still want to be entertained. They still spend money.

Things have not really dropped off, and, won't really, until the day after the holiday weekend. That's when we all get to catch our collective breath until the aspen begin to change and another wave of lookie-loos swarm into the mountains like ravenous locusts upon ripe crops. Then it'll be the snowbums with the first flakes. Then, once again, will come summer.

The cycle continues, and there's a strange comfort I find in that...

12 August 2012


I have often said I am not romantic. There are those who'd argue with me for reasons of which I find baseless. After all, the proof in the pudding of my statement is in the stars.

Years back, another life, another time, an age of wonder-but aren't they all?-there was a girl I was a little enraptured with. Luckily, she liked me back, because one-way love affairs suck with more power than super-massive black holes. When the confessions of amore were made, I gave a promise; that I would love her until the stars fell from the sky.

Our first moment of intimacy was along the banks of a canal under a big sky. An owl called lonely music into the machinery of the night and freight trains trundled by. Overhead, the Persid meteor shower, at its most brilliant, rained down in the matter of fireballs and celestial coins.

"The stars are falling from the sky, baby," she whispered into my ear at one point.

Well, piss...

The fact I tell that tale in tongues of bittersweet and far-flung memory indicates how it all played out. It could've just been chaos. A funny bit of timing. Perhaps with that proclamation of affection, I spoke in the tongues of prophecy, and some things were dead before they were truly ever born.

Choose your superstition...


A weak cool front moved through and clouds had covered the sky in a blanket of cool ominousness, threatening to spill out rain, which never fell. I went through the motions of obligations, the whole time hoping the sky would clear by dark. I was intending to be up late, or at least rouse myself in the small hours to step outside. There was something I meant to see.

Through the movements of wind and cloud and a spice of chaos, the sky did begin to clear up as I began my bicycle ride back up-valley. The air was cool, but not unpleasant. The narrow-gage was doing a dinner train and some of the wait staff was killing time in the lower depot's parking lot-I can always tell this by the acrid smell of cigarette smoke when riding up. One of the waitresses, a sweet young woman with an owl pendant, smiled warmly at me as I passed by.

"The skies cleared up for you, baby," she called out in a friendly tone. I smirked back and waved, as I sometimes do during these brief interactions.

The sunset was striking; flame and pastel against the Roof of the World, red-clay brick and gold to the east. In the fading daylight, the mountainsides took on a dreamworld-like quality. Once more, I smiled, reveling in one of those and I fucking live here! moments.

It was a late dinner of chorizo and potato tinga with wine. Dark chocolate with raspberries for dessert. I curled up on the couch to read a little bit of a short story anthology I've been reading on and off. The tired of a day of obligations, of  four miles worth of bicycle riding and a nearly six-hundred foot elevation gain began to set in. I caught myself drifting off.

"We'll step out in an hour or two," I said to Sabina before dozing.

It was nearly four hours later when I woke. The small hours. Sabina was sleeping on the other side of the couch. I made a minor attempt to wake her, but to no avail. Perhaps it was for the better. Although she's watched the Persids with me once or twice, I still remember the one time with falling stars with the one girl, remembering how it ended badly. I fear jinxing what I have, but perhaps that's baseless superstition.

I stood out front, taking in the night sky as framed by eleven and twelve-thousand foot peaks. Part of me wanted to go back in and just go to bed. It was almost chilly out. I should have at least thrown on a sweater.

Then, in rapid-fire succession, I saw them; the meteors, raining down in the manner of fireballs and celestial coins. A wide smile crossed my thin face, full of awe at the pure wonder of the cosmos. Here was the Divine, here was magic made manifest in form of burning rock and ice.

"Hello, my pretty," I whispered into the silence of the night.

I was outside but a few minutes. Just a few falling stars. It was okay, I was tired. I went inside, kissed Sabina on the cheek, and went to bed, dreaming of stars, striking sunsets, and the girl I never made any attempts to be romantic with, despite what others might say.

07 August 2012


Taken a few years back from the front porch; the peak in question...

 Back during the halcyon antiquity of the mining days, the explorers, and prospectors, and settlers, which swarmed into these mountains like ravenous locusts to crops, named the mountain Sherman Mountain-not to be confused with the fourteener, Mount Sherman. Perhaps the first tribes, those exterminated and exiled in the name of greed and Manifest Destiny, had a name for it too, though I've yet to learn it. When I first started coming here and falling in love, the mountain captivated me, though I cannot rationally explain why; certainly, there are several other mountains throughout our Sahel, and I've never been, nor wanted to be, a mountaineer, scaling peaks for the junkie-rush of accomplishment.

But that one held my attention. Eventually, I beheld it, encrusted in diamond-white snow. It was then I decided I'd give it my own name, just because; Kilimanjaro. My personal Kilimanjaro, in fact. I decided this would be the one mountain I would summit, no matter what. 

Perhaps that's where the trouble started...


I have spoken about the divinity I find in Tuesdays. This one was especially special, I had made a mental date with a mountain, and, up until that day, only told Whistler about it. After all, I didn't think he'd go running his yap in tongues mere monkeys could comprehend. The last time I took Sabina toward my personal Kilimanjaro, she got frustrated because we were past any ruins and it just seemed like the walkabout was a steady uphill toward a snowfield that was nowhere near our goal. My daughter was down below registering for her final year of high school. Another adventuring companion of ours was probably off doing something else even more awesome, making my little trek seem amateurish, and, well, I'd made no mention of this to him, so it'd have been a little late to extend the invitation.   

When I told Sabina my scheme for the day, she expressed her trepidations; I was going into the outback with just a dog. It was later in the morning and we had still been getting the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, the last bits of fallout from the summer monsoons. I promised to watch the sky and otherwise not get myself killed, seeing as I have little time for such nonsense, and that was the absolute limit of it.

To reach the route up my personal Kilimanjaro, Whistler and I had to take the 730 trail. With it being Tuesday, we encountered one other hiker; a man from Minnesota, come out to scatter the ashes of his wife at the Clifford Griffin monument. I might not be romantic, but I found this very sweet, thinking of my father, and the scattering of my mother's ashes up by the ruins of Waldorf.

There is a chance I might be making it up to that spot this year, but that's a story that's yet to be told...

The 730 Mine itself sits along Brown's Gulch. Water cascades down from a thousand feet to the valley floor, joining the river. During the winter, ice climbers will scale those heights. Our course was to follow the gulch up a bit, though I resolved not to go as far as the snowfield, since it was ass to elbow to reach my goal. Experience taught me that.

The gulch though, in some ways, is an example of that silly feel-good saying; 'the journey's the destination'. Despite a rather steady uphill pitch, the sound of rushing water is relaxing and the views of the outback of our Sahel are impressive. Every time I've gone up that way it's been warm and there's been wildflowers to take in.

I reached a spot at which I figured I'd have the best of luck and spent the next hour bushwhacking; following possible runoff courses and bighorn sheep trails, relishing the few level spots I found. This was work. I could see the tundra, just past a tangle of krummholz, which looked like and amalgam of baobabs and bonsais. It was close, I just needed to keep going up.

Up. Past sun-bleached bones of sheep and the last visages of human passing. Up. Past the bones of trees, felled by lightning, avalanches, or just the passage of uncounted time on the mountainside.


At treeline, we stopped for water. To catch our breath. The view of the tundra, of so much for the outback of the upper part of the valley made it worth it. I looked up at the summit, not so far away now. Although there were cotton ball candy thunderheads in the sky, nothing had coalesced into anything menacing. I re-shouldered my pack and started on the last push.

"Here we go," I said over my shoulder to Whistler. "Tally-ho, muthafucka!"

It took a half hour. At the summit, it leveled out, and I almost ran the rest of the way. There was a wicked grin of joy on my face, and I caught myself almost giggling with child-like glee over what was happening.

I'm here. This is really happening. I made it...

The summit of my personal Kilimanjaro...

Looking east; although my crappy telephone camera does not show it, I could see flatlands, including the monoliths of downtown...

Looking west; two of the local fourteeners as well as the Roof of the World...

Looking downward; my house is down there, I could see it...

And, it case there was any doubt of us making it, the handsome devil there is Whistler...

We ate apples, dog food-well, Whistler did, almonds-that was all me, and drank more water. I wandered around a bit, letting the hot sun and cool breezes dry my sweat-soaked skin. Whistler took the time to catch a quick nap before we headed down.

Retrospectively, I wished I'd brought some prayer flags to leave upon the summit. Although, at twelve-thousand two-hundred eighty-two feet, I'd have been attaching them to a cairn, and I would've had to make one for the occasion. I'm sure disciples of Thoreau, Muir, and Abbey might say it was better I didn't leave anything. Perhaps my bow and namaste-choose your anthropomorphic superstition as to whether or not the mountain heard me, or even cared, about the action, of which I can find no rational for the act other than habit-was enough. I resolved I would do this again in a year. A pilgrimage of sorts, like my one to the Stupa. Although, thinking about it, it's hard to think which will be more holy in my heretical worldview.

Two hours down. Soaking my feet in the cold waters of Brown's Gulch at the ruins of the 730 Mine. Gunpowder tea and east African lentils upon arriving home. Whistler dropped into a coma and I found myself with words to purge.

I'm pretty sure a hardcore mountaineer would see my twelve-thousand foot accomplishment as a milk run. That's fine, I've  never been, nor wanted to be, a mountaineer, scaling peaks for the junkie-rush of accomplishment. Be that as it may, when I've looked out the parlor window, when I've stepped out on to the front porch and beheld my personal Kilimanjaro, I've caught myself feeling pretty fucking cool.

I don't think I need to tell the mountain I'll see its crown again next year. After all, I don't think it would, nor do I expect it to, answer me back. Still, I figure I'll keep the date if for no other reason than to take in those views again.       

02 August 2012

For the Love of the Small Treasures

I love the mountains. Just in case I've never said it or articulated it clearly enough, let's just get that out of the way first. I love the extremes; from the gentle summer sunlight to the harshness of a winter's blizzard. The cool of the mornings and nights, those bits of warmth during the day, no matter of how fleeting. The juxtaposition of geology; the way the landscape folds and twists and stacks upon itself in ways that can stupefy the rational mind. I love cruel compassion of the climate. Fuck about, and you're bleached bones upon the tundra, out in the woods. But, if you're mindful, you will learn the omens and get by just fine, grateful for the moments of gentle sun a fresh breezes.

I love our Sahel for its history; dating back to the earliest mentions of the gold rush of Colorado, and maybe a few legends earlier than that. The ruins get the attention of my inner Howard Carter, and I have beheld some wonderful things. Aside from that, start going a mile or so in any direction, beyond the townships, past the ruins, and you're beyond it all. You can lose yourself. You might meet yourself. Out there, in the outback, the rules of engagement change and the fun really begins.

I love the walkabouts. Whether on my own or with company, those are the holiest of moments; when I feel the presence of the Divine. More than a few days away from the bush and my feet begin to itch, I get antsy, I know I need to go. The trail, its sights and scents, are one of the reasons I find to be alive.

I love my bicycle rides, being grateful that I decided not drive for a summer. It might even become a steady practice. The lessons I have taught myself in endurance and relearned in tenacity have been profound. I like how fast I can get going sometimes, but how I can move just as easily at people speed.

I love cooking. From the meditative zen of prepping to the scent of the meal perfuming the house, making for the sweetest of incense. The pairing of food and drink. I'm always on the lookout for a new recipe or three; I like the challenge, the adventure. Given the cuisines I like to cook, I could say this is one of the ways I travel the world. There is something neat about someone from Ethiopia complimenting your homemade berbere blend and saying your w'et reminds them of home that's kind of cool.

I love her iridescent doe eyes, which glitter like abalone shells. The way she never ceases to amaze me. How, without asking, she'll play a song on the radio, and let her audience know, just because. The fact that, after so many years, she still loves me back, despite the fact I might be a little difficult to live with or understand on occasion.

I love her deep soulful dark eyes, so full of youthful innocence, wonder, and potential. Lifetimes ago, I fell in love with a girl with eyes like that, so much so I married her. That marriage was probably doomed from the start, but from it, I gained the true love of my life, and any other woman is just that; the other woman. I love how even though sometimes as she's been growing up I've felt like little more than a glorified babysitter, but she still looks forward to spending time with me, that she too wishes for more. The fact we both can hardly wait for her to be eighteen so we don't need to use her mother for a go-between with our visits. I love that she wants to be a doctor and is so set on climbing Danali. She's fucking magic and truly believe she'll do it all and more.

I love my life in general. Well, I've never truly hated it. Even in the darker times, I've found my reptile zen on one level or another. That stubborn refusal to be broken beneath the blade. I don't know that I'd say I'm content. Content can all to easily lead to complacency, and I have far too much to do to allow for such a state. The moments between heartbeats, where the real magic happens, are amongst my favorites. Life, for all its chaos and horror is nothing more than series of moments, and those moments, a cache of small treasures. Treasures of greater value than folding paper, jingling coins, rubies or glass beads.