"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

28 December 2012

The Resolve of Exploration

It's been looking and acting a bit more like winter up here the last couple of weeks. Not enough to totally alleviate the drought concerns, but at least enough to make the snowbums happy and have a decent snowshoe. It gives our tiny corner of the world a different perspective, and that is always a good thing to have.

The other day, Sabina, my daughter, a friend of ours, and Sabina's sister went on a snowshoe along the way to the ruins of Waldorf a bit to the side jog that leads back to Pavilion Point, midway up the Argentine trail. It was grand for a change of perspective, the snow having made a tried and true trail new and exciting, and our approach to a familiar destination. From Pavilion Point, my daughter and I took off back to town via a route of pristine powder snow whilst Sabina, her sister, and our friend headed back to the vehicle, stopping to investigate a snow-covered mine along the way. This mine has been tentatively earmarked as a ruins hike come summer; one, in which we may continue on past Waldorf to Argentine pass perhaps.

Despite being rather sore that night and the day after, Sabina was satisfied with the trek. It was her birthday, and her sister said our walkabout was perhaps the best present ever. I am inclined to agree.

Walkabouts, sex, good wine and/or whiskey, and a fine meal-not in any particular order-are the stuff of a great birthday, I say, an endeavor to put into practice...

I pore over maps, not just of our part of the valley, but of other regions of our Sahel, a territory of nearly three-hundred ninety-seven square miles. So much of it is hemmed by national forest and wilderness area that our civilization, if it can be called that, is something of a dubious proposition. Although I've never been one to do one of those piss and wind empty as a politician's promise resolutions for the new year-other than not becoming a serial killer...yet, and so far, so good-I have resolved to explore other parts of this pocket of nowhere.

Another thing I've never been big on is having a reputation. The cats I've encountered who live and die by such things are the ones who've never graduated high school on the mental level and are probably possessed of several other inadequacies too numerous to bother listing here. Be that as it may, there are a few who have decided I'm the one to talk about when it comes to trails in our area. This is queerly flattering, but also disheartening. After all, being accused of having a reputation is something I find insulting, because then you're expected to live up to that, and, well, to say I don't do well with doing what's expected is right up there with pointing out the sun sets in the west.

I could joke with the trails I know that maybe if my eyes were pulled from my head, I was drugged, turned thrice widdershins, and given a concussion, I might get lost, but then I bring up how Miguel Loco makes Sabina and I look like wide-eyed flatlanders that get rescued because of  prideful overestimation of prowess. It's from him I've heard the names of other trails than the ones I know so well and received the inspiration to go explore them. After all, our Sahel is nearly three-hundred ninety-seven square miles, and we've only trekked across a fraction of that, becoming quite intimate with that fraction almost to exclusion of the whole.

Well, I do so dig on being balanced, well-rounded, and otherwise inclusive. The snow making a tried true trail look new, and taking it in from a different perspective help to motivate this seed of an idea germinating within the walls of my skull for a bit now. I mean to trek beyond places I can merely walk to. Although, the fact I even have that option is nothing short of fantastic. The upper west end of the valley is what I know fairly well, and, no matter how many times I wander those bits of outback, I can find something new in which to remind me of what an amazing stretch of geography I live in.

Be that as it may, there is another pass, just a ridge away, and whole wilderness area surrounding a fourteener. Both of those places are as filled with magic and stories as the places I regularly walk. And I made a promise to myself as I came up here when in the context of adventures and stories; I mean to find them all, and I will.

See if I don't...

25 December 2012

100 Words; Services

When it comes to the services, religion ceases to matter. It is more about community. It's dark, it's cold. The impetuous snowshoe and cross-country ski to that old church. Snow falls oh, so softly, we get a white Christmas, and, after such a dry time, a bit of winter's blessings.

The boys who run the show are ordained through the Universal Life Church, which, I suppose, makes my own heresies forgivable. Then again, this doesn't have a have damn thing to do with religion. It's community. Those simple moments of humanity, which get me to beam like a chesire cat.


I was introduced to the 100 Words concept from Mister London Street. Although he's since decided to stop blogging, go check out his stuff, it's nothing short of fantastic.

21 December 2012

Conspiracies on Lovely Days

It really was a lovely day; clear and mild, the temperatures heading over forty quaint 'merican degrees on the fahrenheit scale with only the slightest of breezes. People were pleasant to one another. There were laughs and well-wishes and stories. The realization that slowly there'd be more light on the days following was enough to illicit a smile of wicked joy. It was beautiful. Perfect. Well, as perfect as it could get without being boring.

One of my volunteers wrote a bit of snark on a white board about the end of the world being rescheduled, and my daughter made some existentialist crack-as a former philosophy/theology major, I was so very proud. Given what some thought was suppose to happen, I suppose this couldn't be helped. And I did laugh. After all, it was really fucking funny.

Back during my roaring twenties, when I hung out in diners and coffeehouses, reading far, far eastern philosophy and getting entirely too impressed with my own intelligence, I had occasion to share my company with a few conspiracy theorists. At, first, it was interesting, but the novelty wore off. Quickly. Like religious zealots, there's no reasoning with that ilk, no matter how irrefutable the facts. A younger and more impetuous me did try once or thrice.

Be that as it may, on such a lovely day, I found myself remembering a few of those cats and something my father likes to say sprung to mind;

"Who's stupid?" 

18 December 2012

Powdery Blessings

Perhaps I should make documented worries of no snow more often. Shortly after bitching about dry summer conditions, in which half the state had caught fire, the rains finally came, and we had an okay monsoon. Years and lifetimes ago, Sabina, seeing that I was purging words from my skull, asked me if I was casting spells. I gave her a quizzical glance, and she said my words were incantious-yes, it's a word, because I fucking say so-but she was probably just trying to score a date. Both the gypsy and the bruja had at one time or another remarked my words had power.

Those girls, all of them, give me far too much credit. Strange luck and roll of the bones chaos equate my stories coinciding with shifts in the meteorological pattern, not any kind of mojo. Seriously. I don't think that's how magic, if there really is such a thing, works.

Snow has been falling in our Sahel, across the mountains, for the better part of four days. At a guess, I'd say there's between four and six inches of fresh powder around the House of Owls and Bats. It's a given the snowbums are touching their no-no places in absolute glee. Travelers have told tales of slow progress and harrowing moments atop the high points along the Road. I find myself able to legitimately wear my snow boots. So it goes.

"We went about a month without snow," I told a shaken traveler. "It's a little macabre to drive in, certainly, but we're all grateful for it."

The me who lived in the middle of a city, years and lifetimes ago, would look at the me who lives in the middle of the mountains like a madman for that statement. There are a few from back then I still speak with whom would verify that, some who most likely figure I'm insane anyway. Even and especially were I to up and wax philosophical about the phantasmal nature of you's and me's. What do you do?

Meteorological prophecy foretells of these series of disturbances and strong storms getting near their death-rattle. A couple of days of calm at least before another potentially powerful storm, although, that one's still too far off to speak of in anything other than speculative tongues. Even the most hopeful of weather oracles seem to know that. 

I look out my window, taking in the freshly blanketed world. Inside, there's hot tea, a fire, and loud music. Part of me considers a brief and solitary walkabout, just to enjoy the snowbound silence. There might just be a chance for a decent snowshoe yet. And, who knows? Maybe a storm, which will finally justify that last infusion of Nepali black tea I've been holding on to for so long.

I am hopeful, and, as I've often said; hope is a very good thing to have...

16 December 2012

Levity Amongst the Chaos

Despite the gaily decorated evergreens and carolers, and even though there was the annual Christmas Market and I've had tourists ask me about a particular forfuckssakemutherfuckingJohnfuckingDenverfuckingfilm, the full implication of the time year hadn't start to settle in until a few days ago. I was at a party for the narrow gage railroad, and 'merry Christmas' and 'happy holidays' were more commonly heard than 'see you later' or 'have a good night'. Someone who knew I was Buddhist asked me what my ilk did this time of year. Not having been the first time that inquiry's been posed to me, I merely smiled, mentioned Rohatsu-which I didn't even realize happened until three days later, remember, heretic-and going to family gatherings and parties out of respect at the very least.

"Happy holidays, or whatever it is you celebrate," a tourist said to me the other day, I was wearing my fleece vest at the time, and there is an Om patch on it. I merely chuckled.

Sempi has harassed me for not at least having a tree. Never mind our tiny house, we should have one. He even went as far as saying it didn't have to be a Christmas tree; it could be a Bohdi tree, or, in my case, an exotic tree.

And, yes, insubordination be damned, I did call him a pigfucker. Twice. Wouldn't you?

With the socially acceptable excesses that accompany this time of year, I could joke that it's all gay and fine for me to indulge in great amounts of wine and/or whiskey at gathering instead of hanging back in a corner, trying to look comfortable next to a potted plant. Of course, I'm not given to attending to many parties. My paradoxical misanthropy, see? Something, which Sabina thinks has gotten a little better since we've come to the mountains, but, sometimes, I wonder if it's not gotten worse.

This is the time of year when I oscillate between depression, anger, apathy, and the occasional smiling at moments of simple humanity. I could, for the uncounted time, wax venomous about the commercialism or the theology, which spending three Christmases around southern evangelicals did nothing to help, that I am not a part of. There are the recent psychic scars of my mother and the bruja and other small tragedies, affronts, and unmentionables over the years, resulting in emotional baggage that bubbles up to the surface during a time of socially constructed peace and goodwill.

With my mother walking on this time of the year, I've been able to get out of some Christmasy things. Once, I mentioned feeling like I was moping too much. Of course, sempi reminded of something he told me back when we first became acquainted;

"That's your mom, you get to keep that." I guess at the end of the day, he's not always such a pigfucker.

Whistler has been showing growing incontinence since the last walkabout he took with me. Time was, as a champion show dog whom had traveled the wide world with my mother, he could stand to be in a crate for twelve to fourteen hours and not even blink. Lately, eight hours is pushing it, and I often try to let him out every four to six. When he has an accident, I wonder what sign I missed. I get frustrated; not at him-I cannot call him growing old his fault on a clean conscious-but at my own impotence on the matter. After all, this is the same dog that went up my Kilimanjaro with me.

I recently mentioned the First Noble Truth, and along with the realization of suffering comes the realization of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. Forever is that fairy story lie we perpetuate to keep from screaming that one day it's lights out, and there's no way to escape it.

Whistler and Chevy, the Grumpy Old Men, my monkey's paws from my mother are not going to be around that much longer in the grand scheme of things, and the thought troubles me, as though another link to her memory will be lost to the belly of oblivion. Then again, Milarepa, the cats, and ferrets will one day be gone as well. Sabina and I don't get a forever, because, if one or both of us does not tire of our shared company, then one of us is going to be on the other side of dead, and that's just the way of it.

Such horrific black-shaped thoughts ricochet through the walls of my skull with the ferocity of summer lightning out on the tundra and across the highest peaks. The knowledge that all there is a series of moments and no happily ever after is terrifying. Understanding that even the stars die, therefore, proving as the old song goes, that we are only immortal for a limited time.

Wisdom from a celluloid sangha;

"There's no point to any of this. It's all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedies and a series of narrow escapes. So, I take pleasure in the little things..."

Perhaps this time of year, I find myself focusing more on the tiny details, lest my cynicism and baggage gets the better of me. I understand the reality of chaos, and just ride its storm winds, making note of those simple moments, which get me to smile. Whether that's a sweeping view or the stars overhead, the smile from a stranger or a hug from my daughter, I revel in it. This time of year, despite the socially constructed auspice, I seem more prone to notice the unremitting horror of a cold and indifferent universe, and I work especially hard to find those little bits of levity, as to keep myself from screaming.

This almost makes that crappy Toto song bearable as an example...

11 December 2012

One of Those Days

Gales of Chomolungma ferocity whipped down from the Roof of the World, sending snow devils to dance and frolic across the tundra high peaks and my wind chimes to sing in their bluster choir of cacophony. I brewed my lapsang souchong tea for the Himalayan motif and made a grateful note the temperatures had clawed out of the teens for the first time in two days. It was with resignation that for the first time in a season, a walkabout was right out for my agenda.

I hopped down valley to the winery. My friend and I talked politics and I helped her reach some things she could not without the aide of step stool, or a freakishly tall friend. I got to pour my own glasses. Fantastic.

Rented DVDs at the library. Picking up washer fluid for Old Scratch. It was there I lamented my lack of inclination toward a walkabout. Rain? I've got my hardshell. Snow? Layers and snowshoes. Mud? Got a certain pair of beat-up hikers for just such an occasion. Wind? Walking in a wooded area makes it not as bad, but during a winter's bluster, it's still not terribly favorable.

"It's that time of year, you know," the woman handing me my washer fluid said. "That biting wind."

"Yeh," I muttered. "One of those days." 

09 December 2012

White Wake Up

I wake up to winter. Not the dull brown of the badlands of eastern Colorado in January, or the rust still-quite of a North Carolina forest in February. No, winter. The things one sees on postcards and calendars or thinks of when Colorado is mentioned; towering peaks and snow. Just a few inches, grass still peeks above the powder in some places, but after a month without it, it's a lovely sight to behold.

It's cold out; single digits, fighting to get into the teens on the fahrenheit scale. The cold sun makes the snow glimmer like a blanket of diamonds. Mercifully, there's no wind. Wind would be cruel. It is enough to justify my parka, the one I just purchased not too long ago, the one that's too hot if it's much more than twenty-five degrees out. Looking up at Pendleton and then over to my personal Kilimanjaro, I find myself thinking the day has certain Himalayan motif, which I use as justification for brewing lapsang souchong for my morning tea.

Chakchouka is on the menu for breakfast, something spicy and north African. A big pot of three bean, two meat, Jamaican jerk style chili burbles in the crockpot. Both meals in perfect context for a cold winter's day. Sabina makes us mochas as a pre-breakfast drink. We speak on smacking one of the coffeehouses, down valley a little later.

Even tough it's the last day of Christmas Market, with the cold and snow, I don't suspect there'll be much in the way of crowds. When it snows, the down below meteorologist speak in doomsday tongues and only the bravest-and/or stupidest-of the snowbums brave the Road. Want to hear a loco merchant rant? Mention a metroplex meteorologist foretelling snow in our Sahel.

Prophecy does speak of a few more shots of snow. Even though flatlanders might stay out of the mountains if even a flake is mentioned, up here, amongst the locos, there is a collective sigh of relief. Hopeful prayers that this might be a beginning. It's winter, after all, and it should at least attempt to look like it.

04 December 2012

Pull of the Alpine

Perhaps it's been the strange state of the climate, but maybe it's the urge to do something different, or it could be I'm pregnant and have a queer craving-and no one would be more shocked at that circumstance than I-but I've been finding myself drawn toward the outback of our Sahel a bit more as of late. Screw the nearby trails I could reach on foot for a walkabout, I'm wanting tundra. Those mountain badlands.

The alpine calls upon banshee-howl winds in a siren's sing-song voice. My sense of curiosity, which has either gotten me into horrific amounts of trouble or led me to grand adventures in the past, gets piqued by this geo-environmental pull. My feet itch as I pull on my boots and start to grab my pack.

Part of me questions if I want to be up there before the snow gets flying-if it ever does. Just one of these possibly fleeting last times. After that, it's harsh winds, bitter cold, and reading the slabs for omens of avalanche. I could make it there, I've got the gear for it, but I guess it's all a matter of what I want to carry and be ready for. Perhaps that's prima donna of me, which would be addle-brained; there's neither time nor place for prima donnaism in the outback.

I grab my pack, stuffing it with things to eat and water. My layers are chosen under the auspice of weight and warmth, knowing the divinity of motion. The hounds watch me, knowing one gets to accompany me on my trek. One of them gets to get lost with me for a few hours out in the nameless places.


Up top, chilled wind caresses us as we stop for water and our snacks. Milarepa curls close to me, not because she's cold, but because she enjoys being close when we stop. She slurps her water eagerly and eats her treats as though it's the finest of meals. After that, she leans against me for company whilst I somewhat absently stroke her coat, surveying my surroundings.

We stand upon a primeval lake. In the summer, it's been joked, one would expect to see a t-rex, or perhaps some variety of velociraptor. This time of year, perhaps a mammoth or a smilodon. It is a place that exists out of time in the context of human understanding. You could tell someone there were dragons or yetis out here, and, most likely, not be lying.

From here I can see a formation called the Citadel. There are stories of deep winter backcountry skiing from its summit and full on climbs up it in high summer. From my vantage point, it's just a neat piece of geography to behold. A signpost in this stretch of never-never.

Were we so inclined, there is a trail, which starting in Mexico, cuts through this territory, along the Roof of the World, all the way up to Canada. The other day, Sabina and I half-joked about doing the whole thing. It's only thirty-one hundred miles, after all. Someday.

A gust buffets us, and I pull away from Milarepa. She looks up at me expectantly, wondering where the next part of our adventure will take us. I smile warmly as I re-shoulder my pack, letting the enchantment of the alpine wash over me like a half-frozen mist, patting her head in the process.

"Time to head back down, sweet girl," I say to her, and then toss her a final treat before we start walking again. "Thank you for keeping me company."