"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 November 2012

Khaki Fears

Usually, by this time of year, between the first snows, the temperatures, and the fact there's no direct sun on the house from it being the long dark, we have our base-coat of snow out back, which lasts until spring. It makes it all the more shocking that on the precipice of December the remnants of the first snows of the season, the first snow of winter, that there's really nothing in the way of snow out back. A walkabout up Grizzly Gulch the other day met with encounters of frozen water crossings-good thing I took my crampons-but little else, and I ended up in the krumholtz at the foot of Grizzly Peak.

"You been over the passes lately?" An older regular traveler from out of the Babylonian wastes surrounding Viva! Las Vegas! asked me.

"We did a loop the other day," I replied. There was a new vehicle to play Hansel and Gretel in. Roadies and roadtripping. Something to do on a breezy afternoon.

"There isn't enough snow up there to make a snowman," he snorted. "This is bad. Real bad."

"Preaching to the choir, Sir," I said. "But it's early yet. We've still got some winter left."

"Pray you're right," he said. I couldn't bring myself to tell him the only time I prey is in the context of the food chain.

A little over a month ago, whilst returning home from a walkabout, I was taking note of the gentle autumn sunlight filtering lazily through the trees. Insects danced in this glow. The air was warm and the breezes kind. I suddenly found myself filled with dread.

"This is going to be repeat of last winter," I whispered to myself. "That was part of the beginning."

Years back, the idea of mild temperatures and no snow would've pleased me. Perhaps I was selfish. That was another life. A past one. These days, whilst not overly thrilled with bitter cold or having to dig out of a blizzard, I do understand that the snows of winter are not just for the snowbums. Farmers need the runoff for their fields and it certainly helps the mountains from catching fire come summer. All things are connected and that's just the way of it.

There is something macabre about walking in a dried out riverbed that just a couple years back was swollen past capacity with runoff rapids. Of standing on the tundra in early winter and seeing more khaki than white. Hearing that this pattern does not look to be abating anytime soon, doomsayer fears that it may be the way it's going to be for a very long time. The new norm.

"Keep doing your snow-dances," an oracle with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said in a correspondence.

Meteorological prophesy speaks of a possibility of snow in the coming days, though the amounts are not as clear. Prophets do not know everything and oracles can be wrong. Other diviners state the drought, which has gripped a good deal of the country, will persist through at least deep winter. One of my deepest fears is a drought like what drove away the Anasazi.

Average snow would be nice, and it'd look like a bumper year after the last one. I hold out a bit of tepid optimism; it's still early in the season, there's still a bit of winter to come. Perhaps, in a few weeks, these fears will be shown to be unfounded. I cannot dance to save the soul I'm not sure I have, and I only prey in context of the food chain. Be that as it may, I wonder about sacrificing a chicken, or a virgin-if I could find one-for just a little bit of fluffy frozen water.

26 November 2012

Old Scratch

Upon the initial glance, the burgundy paint looks quite eye-catching for a vehicle coming up on its thirteenth year. It is only upon closer inspection does one notice the dings and faded spots. Diabolical countenance. The way of the Devil. Perhaps the driving reason I named it Old Scratch.

It's not been in our possession a week and I've already slathered it with stickers. Such is the way. My Free Tibet one is the closest I really come to advertising my politics.

Sabina and I have spoken of one day getting what the matron calls a beep-beep jeep. Something to cover with stickers and take on the dusty outback roads of our Sahel and beyond whilst rocking out to some Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. That's someday. For now, a Devilishly named Subaru will do quite nicely.

20 November 2012


Every time I visit Clifford Griffin I find myself wondering why he chose to shoot himself at one of the windiest locations in the upper valley. Maybe it was the wind, and not a woman, as some of the stories say. He never answers when I ask. Of course, the fact he's been dead the last one-hundred five years probably has something to do with that.

It wasn't as blustery as it can be at there, and, like last winter, there wasn't a lot of snow on the trail. Milarepa and I sat by the monument enjoying the view, the sun, water, and an apple. She was very excited; the last few times I've been up to hang out with Clifford, Whistler's been with me, but those following along at home know how that's played out.

"You know I'll still see other puppies," I told her. "But out here, on the trail, it's just you and me, kid."

18 November 2012

Letter to a Phantasm

"And I miss you
 like the deserts miss the rain..."
-Everything but the Girl

The girl on the bench had long, thick flame-red dreadlocks. I could hear her laugh as she spoke into her phone. I had to double-take, then a triple. I knew the truth even as I scanned her features and listened closer to her voice, her laugh; it wasn't you, just a cruel trick of the light, memory, and a fool's hope.

I fucking swear, mon ami, your phantasm haunts me more than that one x of mine, visions of my mother, my grandmother, or even Jibril. Part of me considers disliking you-strongly-for it. But can I really blame you? You've been dead and gone two years now, and I cannot imagine you wanting to unintentionally torment me with your ghost at every other turn.

It's not like I've not dealt with death before. I grew up on a farm. I began to understand the First Nobel Truth, the realization of suffering, of death, by the time I was six. I danced with the dead for money once, hearing some horror stories of the reality of disease process-some of the drinking nights I had from those tales border upon mythic.

Jibril had four kidneys in his body, and not one of them worked, despite my efforts to help him get a new one transplanted. My grandmother tried an aces over eights bluff against mythical death gods with an experimental surgery instead of accepting the sentence delivered by the aneurysm slowly chocking her eighty-one year old heart. My mother was devoured by a rarer strain of cervical cancer by no other reason than bad things happen to good people, even if good and bad are constructs invented to make sense of the roll of the bones chaos.

All three of those deaths rattled me profoundly. You know that. Be that as it may, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, I can say I saw them coming.

But, you, dearheart, were Hell and gravedust, and cobwebs, and razorblades, and maggots. You were the surprise. Right the fuck out of nowhere, wrong place, wrong time, surprise! you're dead! You know how much I loath surprises.

I suppose if you'd survived the experience, you'd probably had been far more upset about it and I'm just being selfish. After all, I only lost a friend. You lost your unborn son in the deal too.

The First Noble Truth is the realization of suffering...

It's taken me years to reconcile my heretical faith, it seems. That had started with my mother's death, the year before. We were just starting into corresponded discussions of our theological evolutions shortly before your rollover. Even though the first Noble Truth of Buddhism speaks to the chaos inherent in the universe, I confess, I was getting a little nihilistic right after we all put you in the ground. It took some time for Humpty-Dumpty to pull himself back together again.

I remember that tarot card oracle you cast for me, four months after my grandmother died, when you said I would find enlightenment. You once referred to me as your mountain bodhisattva. Both statements I found a bit ballsy, and giving me far more credit than I might want or deserve. Although, amusingly enough, Lee agreed with you about my enlightenment once, by virtue of how and where I choose to live and who I choose to share my life with.

Of course, I've often maintained that the cat who says they're enlightened clearly isn't. The only way I could really accept your mantel of being enlightened is if enlightenment means I don't know every fucking thing and content myself with the mysteries, knowing for every question answered, like weeds, ten more spring up in its place. Every time I think I know, that I've arrived, as the buzzword goes, I find more riddles and set off to solve those, because ignorance leads to suffering, which perpetuates samsara.

I'd say it's because we stand upon the date of your accident, and those five days your family kept your shell alive on machines after the fact that is why you've been within the mathematics of my thoughts as of late, why I saw your phantasm in the shape of a traveling girl in a set of dreads. That would be a lie. You're within the walls of my skull a lot. I think of you as the one friend who didn't think I'd completely lost my mind when I announced I was over and done with the city and moving to the mountains and if anyone got in my way I'd eat their fucking liver. Slowly.

"Ah so. And you find why I disappear into the mists of mountain tops and people who breath the word zen as deeply as they breathe the air," you said.

It endeared me to you. But there were so many tiny things you did to do that. I could get so angry with you I'd want to spit coffin nails-you fucking up and dying on me is a shinning example-and you'd go and do something and I'd remember why you were my friend. Why you've always meant so much to me.

You didn't wear your seatbelt, and I can never forgive you for that. But, you very well know I do not believe in forgiveness. Forgiveness implies that it never happened, when, oh, but it did. That is denial, and not in the context of the great African river.

I believe in acceptance. The understanding a thing happened and cannot be made to unhappen. So it goes.

I accept that you're gone. That we'll never finish those theological discussions we started. That we'll never have that teahouse date we always spoke of. That your son will never address me as Dirty Uncle Bob. That we'll never swap any more stories or I'll never get to skeptically harass you over the tarots. I accept that all I have are the memories and the stories.

And, although it rattles the fuck out of me every time it happens, I accept seeing your memory ghost superimposed upon the flesh overcoats of strangers. Were I to allow myself a moment of superstition, I would theorize it's your way of letting me know you're about, perhaps making sure I'm still reptile zen as ever. Even if that isn't the case, I find myself grateful for it, if, for no other reason, it keeps me from even trying to forget you.

Not that I could, even on a bet...     

17 November 2012

Growed Up

"It's my jam!" You proclaim when I put this on...

Would you like to explain to me how this happened? Well, okay, there was the obvious; once upon a time, your mother and I were young and in love and when two people love each other very much they might do what the hip kids on the street call knocking boots. That's not what I mean.

You're eighteen now. Muthafuckingeighteen! An adult in the eyes of the law and the growth rate of the species. What?

Did I miss a meeting?

It took me a couple years to start seeing you past being ten. You were kind of stuck in the temporal loop of being fifteen in my mind's eye, despite the fact you've been driving to visit me for a bit. So, you must understand, this comes as a bit of a shock.

Of course, you know full how well how time is a dubious proposition for me, even though, paradoxically, I possess an innate sense of punctuality. Fuck, sempi is convinced I stopped aging at fifteen, not forty like I decided. Queer. Although, biologically, at fifteen I could've sired offspring, even if when around girls at that age I only wanted to drink lemonade and read the bible. Maybe play some Parcheesi or rummy.

And you better not be snickering to that statement, young lady. Just because you're all growed up now doesn't mean you're not still my little girl. I can still ground you or give you a beating or something, I just can no longer sell you off for a dowry. Not that I'd do that, the whole dating thing you've been doing for a bit is another subject I have a hard time approaching.

Despite my liner shell shock at the state of the chronological union, I am proud of you. I know you've got some big dreams, and I'm confident you'll pull it off. After all, look at your father when it comes to going after what he wants. It's in your blood. Blessing or curse is a matter of mood, aspect, and the day. As long as you're following your tao and not baring your jugular to anyone, you know I've got your shadow.

Happy birthday, little princess...

14 November 2012

Chasing the Sun

The rocks favored a north face, so it really wasn't surprising there was residual snow and ice on them. It slowed my progress, but the climb has never been of technical flavor that favors ropes and belays, and that's not the kind of climbing I do anyway. Despite the snow and ice, it was a nice scrabble, which I knew was the last one I'd be doing for awhile. I've never learned the discipline of ice climbing, and, like skiing and/or snowboarding, I cannot say I've ever had much interest to give it a go.

At the top, I was afforded a vantage point that stretched up and down the valley. The funky little mountain township I think of as my Kashmir spread out below. I could see the final shards of direct sunlight upon the House of Owls and Bats. In just a few days, that would no longer happen, and the long dark would be here. An involuntary shiver passed through my frame.

It's part of the price of admission; to live where I want to live, I must endure six weeks of dysfunctional Alaska. So it goes. The world's axis is the reason for the season. After so many years up here, I've gotten to the point of just regarding it as a harbinger of winter and look forward to the days when direct sunlight shines on the house once more.

I sat back on the rock, surveying my surroundings. The sun was warm on my face and crisp early winter breezes teased the tendrils of my dysfunctional calico hair. I could sense it; for a bit, my walkabouts were going to favor the southern faces, less snow and more sunlight. Unless we get struck with a particularly impressive blizzard, I know I won't even attempt to snowshoe until deep winter. That's just the way of it.

It was not until coming to the mountains that I truly understood just how much influence that celestial nuclear furnace held over us. Differences in wiring is why, despite my wonky sleep patterns, I am not as nocturnal as I once was, whilst Sabina is only up at dawn if she's not slept. An interesting dynamic that makes the prospect of an early morning walkabout with her a dubious proposition.

In the time I sat up top, watching my tiny world go by, I could see the sun dancing along the ridge line of Mount Pendleton. Incrementally, I watched the direct light fade from the row of houses along Rue Maji, the House of Owls and Bats being amongst the first. In just a few more days, there would not be that kind of light at all and that's just the way of it. Mei fei tsu.

With a shrug I started to make my way back down. I was heading into the shadows, but that didn't bother me too much. After all, it's part of the price, and all things for a price, that's the deal. I might be living in perpetual shadow for a bit, but I know I'll be chasing the sun.

11 November 2012

Goose-Down and Gore-Tex

And so, with acceptance, I declared yesterday the first day of High Country winter. My parka and a beanie were pragmatic-and, dash stylish, I might add, though I'm more anti-fashion than fashionable-Miguel Loco would've been proud. The wind carried that bite to it, which cuts through exposed skin clear down past the marrow. Flurries passed through in the manner of soft floating feathers or stinging barbs of ice. Mist clouds coiled about the mountainsides, Chinese dragons swooping down the jetstream from the Roof of the World and beyond; it was said the storm was borne from the Gulf of Alaska. Later in the afternoon and into the early evening, as the temperature dropped, and the ice solidified upon the Road, it became remedial day as, once more, travelers reacquainted themselves with winter driving.

Sabina did not take my declaration with relish or even mustard, but fished her own parka out of the back room. We spoke of hopping down valley and smacking a coffeehouse for something to do. Some of our first dates were at a coffeehouse near the Temple of the Jinn, in that historic district, where I used to live. We've not gone for a coffee as much up here in our Sahel, but that might just change, and a cold second day of High Country winter is as good an excuse as any.

I was out back with the hounds when the wind kicked up, Tibetan in its countenance. The breeze buffered against my parka and a thin dusting of snow kissed the soles of my boots. I found myself thinking of the Snow Queen, Yuki-Onna, and her particular coldness.

It has been a long time since I've made allowance for the concept of an anthropomorphic deity as anything other than fiction. Be that as it may, I considered reminding the goddess of winter that I am in possession of goose-down and Gore-Tex. I thought of mentioning I have acclimatized to the meteorological whims and whiles of this landscape I call home. I kicked around requesting at least one decent snowshoe for the coming winter since last year was a bust in that aspect.

Whether or not my considered dialogs were heard is a matter of one's superstition. With a shrug, I went back inside for the fire and the last of my morning tea. Along the way, I thought of getting my snowshoes ready just in case.

06 November 2012

Drop-Out Day

Not a day goes by that I do not find myself grateful for not owning a television. I can get my documentary geek on through a few streams along the spider's web of cyber as well as news and weather, and the 'puter does have DVD player for the odd film. This has been the paradigm for years, and I do not feel bad about it, even if Sabina and I have gotten a concussed look of genuine confusion from people we've told when they've asked if we've watch the latest hot telly show.

However, this day, I find myself especially grateful. After my daily keeping up with correspondences and otherwise checking in-'making sure the world ain't blowed up yet', as my father would say-I have resolved to drop out for most of the rest of the day. I have my reasons and if you have to ask, you'll probably never fucking know. Certainly, it could be considered apathetic, but I cast my lot a bit ago and have no desire to be ringside to the dogfight I'm sure is going to ensue.

My grandmother, were she still alive, would be all but glued to her television set. So it goes. This, along with Colorado frontier history, was one of those things she lived for. I've always found those who can eat, breathe, and sleep a thing to exclusion of all others interesting, though, it depends on the day and my mood whether I regard those cats with fascination or disdain.

And, at some point during the day, she would've been tracking me down. She would've wanted to know my thoughts-'tell me what's new and interesting', was her preferred method of starting a conversation. Chances are, she'd ask if I knew my friends opinions as well.

In the last few years of her life, love and respect her though I did and still do, I found myself disagreeing with my grandmother more and more. The rhetoric on her side was becoming increasingly hateful. More xenophobic. More fanatical. I like to believe I am pretty easy-going when it comes to one's beliefs and philosophies; I become indignant, at best, when someone tries to tell me what to do or how to live my life, so why do that to someone else? Those who do try to impose their will upon others can get the demon that hides behind my eyes to come out, and, if they're lucky, I just growl no thank you and stalk off in the general direction of away. Otherwise, if I'm feeling gentle, they might get to limp away with just a few scars.    

So, I checked the PBS site to verify a couple episodes of Nature I was interested in were accessible to watch as well as Austin City Limits so I might hear a particular song from the Civil Wars I often hear within the walls of my skull, but cannot recall the title to. These are things to do once the sun disappears behind Pendelton's ridge line. Already, it's begun; the growing shadows. In just a few weeks, we will have entered the long dark. It can be a bitch living at the lower border of a north face.

The streaming of documentaries was not to be until later. There were other things to do. Thus, I went for my pack. The hounds watched me intently as I packed my water bottle and grabbed my trek pole and slid my fleece vest on. Chevy, having been sentenced to arthritis for over two years now just gave me a resigned look, a walk to check the post is usually too much for him. Whistler's gaze was a little more expectant and forlorn.

"Even if you weren't deciding to slow down on me, not this go 'round, mon ami," I said. I looked over at Milarepa, who eyed me with youthful expectant excitement. "You neither, I'm afraid."

The four of us went outside for a run before I left. I wanted to do this walkabout alone. It was going to just be along the narrow gage tracks down valley, so nothing overly technical. The solitude would be nice before I wandered into the off-season weekday crowds, if such a description could be apt. I was hoping Miguel Loco would be in at the very least.

Heading along the tracks turned into a dysfunctional game of cat in mouse; train employees getting things in place for the upcoming Big Horn Sheep Festival this weekend, and me not wanting to get caught trespassing walking along railroad tracks. None of the parties involved were neither caught or hurt. I did discover that my bicycle riding had gifted me with the ability to jog fairly well. Owning up, I cannot run, between the last visages of asthma and awkward movements. However, it looks like I can jog when I need to move fast on my own two legs, instead of just walking briskly. Whenever I did it, I reminded myself why I stopped smoking, oh, so long ago.

Seeing Miguel Loco was a twofold mission; the first, as he wanted me to watch his shoppe on a Sunday-will work for gear!-the second, was to get my parka I'd been working on paying off from him before a prophised coming of cool weather. Sales did not dictate the requirement of my services, but I did get my coat. We spoke to the divinity of snow for the wellbeing of our Sahel at this time of year and our respective livelihoods, and to living without televisions.

Having my parka and snowboots at home, all I could think with the worst of the snow and cold was; muthafucking bring it!

I swung by the winery to see another friend and help her through the snake's tail of a bottle of reserve wine that had been open a few days for tasting. A horrible thing, really. But, for my friends, I will drink expensive wine. It's no trouble. Honest. I do it for the team.

Stop fucking snickering...

My reason for seeing her was to bring up an upcoming historical talk on the Anasazi. Both of us having an appreciation for those cultures, it was set as a date. I sat and listened to her tales of travel in the American Maghreb, and of seeing cliff-dwellings firsthand. Something I've yet to do, but it's on my metaphoric list. Something I will do.

Later in the afternoon, my walkabout home was not fraught with the French-film complications of dodging railroad workers. It was a leisurely trek back up-valley. The sun, falling faster behind the valley walls this time of year, glinted warmly off the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro, raging against the dying of the light. I smiled at the sight, my mountain lighting my way home amongst the dimness of the canyon forest.

The walkabout began and ended in the town's cemetery. Time was, I was terrified of necropoleis, fearing where the dead sometimes slept, and sometimes, if stories were to believed, wandered. I was much more superstitious back then.

"You have all those skulls in your house, and you've kept tarantulas!" The bruja said once on the subject. "And yet you're afraid of a few gravestones? You?!?"

I've never made any illusions that my hypocrisies knows no bounds...

Perhaps it was the bruja calling me on my bullshit. Maybe it's sempi's husband, once having oversaw Oakland Cemetery back in Atlanta, and telling me stories. It could be my superstitions have evolved, and I find myself more inclined to be more frightened of the specters clad in skin and bone and the ghosts of memory then any phantasm bugaboo from beyond the veil.

These days, when coming back from certain walkabouts, I smile when I see the first gravestones, which mark the far eastern edge of town's necropolis. I do not see undead monsters coming for me with malign intent, but the gentle voices of those who have been here before; ancestors of different families, as it were. Seeing those markers means I am nearly home, and, in that, I find profound comfort.