"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 April 2013

Tea and Wonder

Classical music plays on the radio as incense perfumes the air. The hounds sleep at my feet. One of them is snoring. Nine-bean soup burbles away in the slow-cooker, getting into the proper context for supper. Daylight fades into early evening by slow degrees.

These are the rhythms and rhymes of the cosmos. The backbeat of the Divine. If you know how to listen, you can hear it.

I sip from a large mug of chai, contemplating emptiness and everything. Depending upon one's bent, saying you've been drinking all day is either the stuff of mournful songs and bad poetry, or, cause for concern. However, it totally loses its metaphoric thunder when the liquid in question is tea. I don't have a problem and could stop anytime I like. Although, fuck with my teas, and I'll eat your liver, no problem.

With a certain fondness I remember that steaming cup of genmacha I partook of whilst watching a late afternoon river amble by. I mused how the ice was all but gone from its banks and contemplated the coming runoff, wondering if low-lying areas, like out back and some of the creek-side streets, will have standing water. Two years back, the runoff was such there were sandbags in some places. A year ago, there was really no runoff to speak of, and a whisper of the river trickled by, begging for a drink.

When we first found this place, our Kashmir, I brought my daughter up to see it, as though I was seeking her approval. Maybe I was. If she didn't like someone I brought around, friend or otherwise, that cat and I didn't play together anymore. So it goes. My daughter was just as entranced by our Sahel as we were, or perhaps it was just how we were so drawn to it. Of course, back then, moths dancing around flames could've taken lessons from us when it came to borderline obsession.

One of those first visits that she was with me for, I told her how the river was the headwaters of all the great rivers of the world; the Ganges, the Mississippi, the Nile, the Yangtze, and so on. It is said all things are interconnected, so I was neither lying nor making a creative leap, because it's all true, even and especially the lies.

Although, retrospectively, I was far too modest in speaking of the connectivity of things. I could have mentioned Olympus Mons, or the Orion Nebula. Perhaps even the great black hole at the center of the galaxy or even the background radiation from the Big Bang itself. All things, interconnected, pass through in those varying degrees here. It's part of the mystique.

I was once accused of thinking too much. Imagine. I don't think it's possible, and the alternative is something I'd rather shoot myself in face-twice, in case I missed the first time-than do.

That cup and contemplation along the riverbank was finished as the sun ducked behind the ridge line and low-hanging clouds started to coil against some the high peaks in the manner of Chinese dragons. Perhaps the fantastical could engage in a little bit of misty mountain hop away from the prying eyes of those half-bald primates that call themselves Man. Such a thing could-and maybe does-happen, and I'd not be the least bit surprised, no matter how awestruck.

It's aways good to be awestruck. To find those sparks of magic-if that's even the right adjective-in the world. When that ceases to happen, it's time to get a lobotomy and march lockstep to the grave, post haste. I am no longer a child, but I still endeavor for that sort of wonder in the world around me.

I advise you to do the same; make room for the fantastic and delight in the small moments. It's not childish, and even if it is, so what? Grown-ups are fucking boring.   

27 April 2013

The Melting

Two weeks ago, close to two feet of snow fell upon our Sahel. Almost a week back, we got about eight inches of fresh powder. That next day, I snowshoed down-valley to the library, along the narrow-gage railroad tracks, the countenance of the snow reminded me a bit our trek up Second Creek, almost two months before. When I walked into the library, my snowshoes strapped to my pack in the manner of the wings of some cybernetic dragonfly, the librarian looked up at me, shook her head with stifled chuckle, and handed me the next season of Northern Exposure before sending me on my way. It was fantastic.

It's hard to imagine that now. There are some tall drifts in remaining in the shady spots, but the warmth of the last few days has made those previous storms a memory with the boon of an improved snowpack-ninety-four percent of average, muthafuckas. The river-rafters may have a season yet, and, perhaps we won't have a fire-ban come summer.

There's mud, of course. 'Tis the season. Great rivulets of melted snow run across the roadways and carve channels in the thawing earth. The grass has some emerald striping amongst the khaki. Bulbs are popping up along the east side of the house; tulips, blue bells, and daffodils. We started some herbs in seed pots, and look forward to planting down at our community garden plot, though that's still a month off.

It's almost a given it'll snow again. Maybe even something that accumulates. Fuck, it's the mountains, it can snow any time of year. That's okay, though, it's spring and it's warm. It won't be long now and I'll be living in shorts and riding my bicycle once more.  

23 April 2013

Feathered Beggars

"I can't afford new tires! I've got to feed the birds!"

That's one of the first mantras we heard upon our arrival here. I go through my memories, straining to find the evidence one way or the other, as to whether the inhabitants of other rural and wild, in-between places put as much loving care into attracting the aviaries. Perhaps it is just a mountain thing.

The juncos, white-crown sparrows, and finches let us know it's spring, regardless of whether or not there's snow on the ground. Actually, snow seems to bring out more of them. Funny. The stellar jays, like the ravens and magpies, are year-round residents. They come to the feeders looking for handouts, which a part of the primate population indulges, going through bags upon bags of seeds.

These feathered omens let us know it will not be long before the hummingbird feeders need to come out, and those trills will echo through the valley. The cats too take note of sudden abundance of prospective food on the wing. Sabina dislikes this circumstance-such a girl thing-but I just shrug. After all, it is all part of the cycle. Like it or don't, birth, death, predator, prey; the food chain is amongst the oldest of orders, and, sometimes we get lucky enough to have a ringside seat.

18 April 2013

Broken Winged Backflash

I knew an angel once. An archangel with a broken wing. His fleshbound shell was afflicted with renal failure. The set of kidneys his body came with started crapping out in childhood. He had transplants, but, eventually, those kidneys, a gift, the last true act of altruism, ceased to function as well. The entire space of our acquaintance he was on dialysis.

So it goes. After all, which of us is perfect? Besides, perfection is boring.

I was dancing with the dead for money when he tried to get on the transplant list again. It became a motivating factor for me in that gig. Years later, the bruja told me that doctors told him he was not eligible for another transplant. He resolved to die at the next available opportunity.

Whether or not that opportunity was a heart surgery he underwent whilst I was helping my father put his mother in the dirt, thousands of miles away, is conjecture that could be debated until the stars fall out of the sky...

He was a hero of mine. One of the smartest cats I ever met. There was a way he carried himself, perpetually smoking and almost always dressed in black suits that made him infinitely cool to me.

"Don't let that suit fool you," Madam Lung said to me one night. "He is a dirty, dirty, man."

True to fact. Even his memorial announcement described him as an unrepentant letch. Both the bruja and the gypsy had some stories. In fact, the best opening line of one of the gypsy's stories involved a tawdry moment with our mutual flawed angelic friend. It would be uncivilized, and, stealing a friend's tale, to go into much more detail.

So it goes. I learned long ago that not all angels are from Heaven and not all demons from Hell, and the wise know to make allowance. He was dying in hurried degrees since the day I first heard his name and probably a lot longer. The fact he was endeavoring to go out with a bang instead of a whimper-maybe a little of both?-is perhaps the metaphoric and metaphysical license given to one with so little to lose.


When I see ghosts, they tend to be donned in a topcoat of breathing flesh. Inevitably, this seems to always happen when I have obligations. I suppose this makes sense; I live where others come to vacation and tourism sustains more places around here than it doesn't. What do you do? My day had started with a group from Argentina and a beautiful dark-haired Brazilian girl who thought peachy was the coolest English term she'd ever heard. I've met monks from Bhutan and midwestern housewives.

What I was doing at the time seems trivial, even if perhaps it wasn't, but I stopped dead when I saw him. He was older, which seems logical, given we'd all aged in the years since vials of ashes were partitioned out amongst our lot. I scattered my share at Netherworld the last night Sabina and I were out before moving to the mountains. The spectacles were the same shape and, instead of the shaved-head Lex Luthor look of his final years, he had the shoulder-length sandy blond hair like when I first knew him.

"Jibril?" I whispered to myself.

The others had spoken of seeing him in dreams. Stories of his phantasm haunting the juke joints we all used to frequent. I never had any such experiences, partially because I dropped out of that scene shortly after he died. It seemed to me we'd already said our goodbyes, so it was unnecessary to see him again. 

And yet, there he was, behind the Voodoo mask of someone with similar features, with perhaps longer hair...

The man smiled warmly at me. Jibril's smile. It got me to react, at least realizing if I didn't watch it, I might just start staring. I inclined my head respectively.

He was joined by a woman on the way out whose countenance was somewhere between the bruja and the gypsy. A warm sort of familiarity that spoke of history, which might be uncivilized to inquire about, but might come out over late-night coffee whilst the rest of the world slept. It got me smile bittersweetly. 

Usually, when seeing a fleshbound phantasm, I find myself rattled. The rest of the day is just a little off in ways language fails to describe. After this encounter, I found myself strangely at peace. My friend, that archangel with a broken wing, never had occasion to see me seized with the madness of leaving the greater metroplex for the mountains. Although I believe it is vanity to second-guess the dead, perhaps in that moment, he finally got see, and that familiar smile said it all.

16 April 2013

April Showers...Or, Winter's Encore

The last storm was not without its comedy; it was supposed to be more of a northern event with just a few inches here in our Sahel. By the time I got home from obligations, Sabina had measured eighteen inches in the yard and it was still coming down. I could not help but chuckle how winter waited for April to give us a proper storm. How the one storm I'd have been drinking that coveted last bit of Nepali black tea I had to explain to travelers-muthafuckinrepeatedly!-why most of the mountain passes were closed.

Without irony, my life would be boring, and, quite wrinkled...

A day later, the sun's out and it's warmer. The High Country in spring. As I dug the vehicles out-two feet of snow? We've got shit to do-I would hear the wumps! and roars of avalanches, which precludes any Backcountry travel without a beacon, probes, and a will. So it goes. I'll just do a running of the Bull's Head.

Meteorological prophecy foretells of chances of snow through at least Thursday. The last prophecy was for three to five inches, not eighteen, so we'll see. We all know my views on prophets and oracles. Be that as it may, I remember something matron once said to a tourist;

"Up here, we don't put away our winter coats. We just move them to a different part of the closet."

True words, and a mantra, which also reminds me to keep my snowshoes handy... 

13 April 2013

Sickly Ox

One night, whilst hanging out in a mountain cantina, sempi called me an ox. Curious, given I do not have a bit of bovine in my biology. Okay, fine, I'm mammalian and vertebrate, but, beyond that, the similarities end. Of course, we were all drinking at the time.

Now, sempi might've been referencing my penchant for riding my bicycle, walkabouts, snowshoeing, rock scrabbles, and other things, which might get me accused of being athletic, despite a deeply ingrained loathing of the jock-types that hearkens back to those days of being brutalized for being an aberration, being too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for the rest of my face. It could be he was lamenting his own loss of prowess in the physical realm. Once, he played football and had a sixpack, but those days were gone. These days, high in the mountains, he has difficulties breathing, partially from undiagnosed asthma and perhaps something else. I won't say he envies the shape I'm in, but he can remember being like that when he was younger.

When I was younger, it was a different story. I can vividly remember the allergies, even to the point of having to get shots one summer. My mother told the story of returning from a trip to North Carolina to see my father's family, and, upon my first breath of the drier Colorado air, I lapsed into an asthma attack. I was taken to a doctor, my mother cooing and comforting the whole time, as mothers are wont to do. The next attack of that severity happened when I was twelve.

I was awkward and uncoordinated. The si lai nan jen would call me wimpy and make fun of the fact I needed an inhaler, that I could not run very far or fast before I started to wheeze. I was sick a lot as whelp. Years later, my x wife, along with a few other girls of intimate acquaintance, would say I had poor health. One girl said she foresaw me dying by the time I was thirty-seven.

Three years later, and still drawing breath, validates that prophets do not know everything and oracles can be wrong. Aside from that, I really do not believe in fate, not throwing my lot to any god, spirit, loa, angel, demon, or any other Voodoo mask you want to place upon divinity. I go my own way.

My last severe asthma attack was the summer of my twenty-sixth year. I felt like I was drowning in the very atmosphere that sustained me. It was a terrifying couple of days, wondering if the next breath I drew would be the one that wouldn't help, that I'd finally asphyxiate.

Strangely, afterward, I started getting better all the time in a short of John and Paul kind of way. A year later, my inhaler ran out and I never refilled it. It got to the point I might take ill once a year, if that. Suddenly, that weak sickly kid was replaced by someone who bore a striking resemblance, but was possessed of incredible health.

"I'm stronger than I look," I told Sabina once. It may or may not have been the time I swept her off her feet-literally. Curiously, she once told me that was romantic. She does drink.

The last time I got sick was the day my mother told me she was terminal. Fucking perfect. I was better the next day. My mother was not so lucky.

I found myself once wondering if my roaring twenties, spent in books and scribbling upon pages in black India ink, whilst hanging out in coffeehouses, was when I was developing my mental facilities. Maybe my thirties was where I put aside my youthful frailties. Perhaps my forties is where I start to merge the two together, getting the aspects to work in concert, not conflict. I am all about balance.

There are still plenty of times I wheeze, when I exert myself. After all, I do live in the High Country. Even the healthiest of hominids can get winded here. These days, I do not require an inhaler. It's getting on half a decade since the last time I took sick, and, as amazed as I am by it, I don't always dwell on the fact. Sometimes, mentioning doing something to sempi, he shoots me one of those of course you do looks.

"You're Robbie Grey," he might say. "You run up the sides of mountains for fun."

Well, it is something to do...

I still remember that sickly wimpy kid I once was. Although I didn't necessarily want to be like the jock-type si lai nan jen who liked to fuck with me, I certainly wished I was stronger. Then again, perhaps my refusal to let them break me is where I began to cultivate a sense of strength. A different kind, but one that has suited me. It just took my body a few more years to catch up. What's come of that is something I still sometimes I struggle to find the shape of, but the monster I see in the mirror, however aberrant, is one I find I can live with.      

09 April 2013

Snowflake Meditations

The last time I saw my father he was going on about how the most dramatic thing on television these days was the weather. Having not had a television in years, I had to take his word for it, although, I have no reason to doubt him. If meteorological prophecy mentions snow we can look forward to quiet days because said prophecy is usually spoken in doomsayer tongues. The worst case, as a friend of mine once observed when I snarked about it. So it goes.

Words like dramatic and dynamic were used to describe this latest bit of snow, and it wouldn't have surprised me if demonic and a few other adjectives with ic at the end were thrown in for spice. The scant few inches of powder outside my door got me to think of comedic personally. Still, I was willing to brew some lapsang souchong for my first tea of the day.

I find it interesting how somewhere during February teens to early twenties in quaint 'Merican degrees on the fahrenheit scale is not as biting as in December and early January. Is that the point acclimatization has finally been achieved? Or is it that the air is starting to shift to warmer this side of the equator? It seems a legitimate question, though, the answer might not be overly important.

I opted for fleece over goose-down. The sun was would occasionally peep out from behind the gauze-like haze of the day as soft flakes fell around me. I thought of my daughter, just the other day she sent me a picture of her in her prom dress. She was beautiful, but I still wanted to strongly suggest to her boy and any others to be mindful around her. After all, her daddy lives in a place peppered with many, many mineshaft[!]s-and can you dig it? Go falling down one of those today, you'll still be falling the next, and, it is said, if you listen closely enough, you can hear voices speaking in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Not that I would facilitate a fall down a mineshaft[!]-and can you dig it?-by any means. Oh, no. That would border upon psychotic, and I am amongst the sanest cats I know. 

The last time my daughter was up, she went snowboarding with friends and had a grand time of it. A few days before, Sabina and I had gone snowshoeing up Dry Gulch, where ours' were the only bipedal tracks that had been there in months. It was fantastic, the profound silences and that view of the Citadel. All three of us went for a walkabout under the glowing cyclopean eye of the full moon.

As springtime here in the mountains continues apace, I think of our last snowshoe and my daughter's boarding excursion as the last ones of the season. Certainly, there's more snow up high than last year, but I've heard of what crusty crap it is. Bluebird powder days becoming as rare as hen's teeth.

I thought of how, in two days, Sabina and I will be marking the anniversary of taking possession of the House of Owls and Bats. The day we made it home. Bittersweetly, the bruja would've been turning forty this year. If I believed in such concepts as justice I would be raging against the searing injustice of my friend being snatched away the way she was. I might understand, accept, and even sometimes embrace in a lover's way, the reality of chaos, it does not mean I always enjoy it.

From a vantage point, I could see steam rolling off the Road, chasing vehicles, enshrouding them, and then shooting past. It was surreal. There is magic here that has noting to do with wizards and thunderbolts. A mysticism that whispers through the silence of spring snow, that dances along cloud-filtered sunlight, and manifests in warm dancing flakes. Here is where the fantastic dances upon earthly feet, and, I found myself being reminded of the fact once more for the countless time; I could really be no place else.

02 April 2013

The Magic of Gray

At a lower elevation, it was a day of drizzle. Lifetimes ago, I'd have been wearing a trench coat and marveling at the echo of my hob-nailed steel-toe boots across city pavements. I'd have spent the day hopping from artifacts boutiques, to used bookstores-that smell!-to coffeehouses for a cup. Jazz would've been the inevitable backbeat, because what else is there on a dreary drizzly day?

Up here at ninety-one sixty, soft flakes, the size of coins wafted down, melting as they kissed the ground. It was cool enough to justify my fleece jacket for walkabout, but not wet enough for my hardshell. I had spent the morning making a stew from the leftover of Easter dinner, appreciating the absolute pornography of my fillet knife plaining prime rib meat from bone. My kitchen carried the scent of Trenchtown-when you're hit with music, you feel no pain. The community radio played Pink Floyd, old, old folk, Jimi Hendrix, and the blues for a backbeat because that's just the way of it in our Sahel.

Outside, I listened to the softness of my hiking boots against the wet earth, marveling at the low mist, cloaking the high peaks. A wicked grin of joy crossed my face as I moved along the trail. Despite the snow, it was not terribly cold out. Perhaps there is something holy about springtime in the Rockies, but perhaps there's just something holy about the Rockies, period, comma, and/or explanation point, and I merely repeat myself.

I am a sucker for a Grey day, whilst others would mope they just suck. There's magic hiding in the slate parasol of clouds that you don't catch within the warming illumination of the sun. When I came home from my walkabout, visions of tea and documentaries playing within the walls of my skull, the radio was playing the old jazz standard, Caravan, and I couldn't help but notice my shelves of antique books in the parlor. Oh, fuck yes. Perhaps I really do have it all, or close to it, but just needed a walk on an overcast day to remind me.