"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 December 2014

V

Five years back, my mother was in the midpoint of her final seventeen days. That bardo in the sickhouse before my brother and I would stand over her emptied shell. Cooling meat that stank of disease. Neither my brother or I had coins to place over her half-lidded eyes.

I started this by trying to explain the concept of everyone having their place in the world. Kashmir being the buzzword. Although, I had been purging my words into the spider's web of cyber for six years already, I wanted to do something new. Something I felt was more reflective of the me who had been living in the mountains for a few years.

New mythology? New narrative? Choose your buzzword, I reckon.

Five years on, I've told some stories and shared a few walkabouts. I still believe in Kashmir, head, heart, and gut. If the concept of worship did not involve submission-dogs submit, I bare my jugular to no one and nothing-I would say I all but worship the mountains. Perhaps totalmuthafuckingrevere would be the better adjective. 

Something that is most important, at least to me, is I am still interested enough to leave my words here. Whether or not anyone else reads them. It does seem the concept of the blog is getting a bit trite. TLDR, is a term I've seen and heard of. Look to social media for quick quips and kitty pictures. However, you want a story or a missive about living where others come to vacation? Come and talk to me.

27 December 2014

Second Creek


It was her birthday, and of course she wore a tiara...

Though it was brisk, the sun was shining. Light flakes began to fall halfway up the trail. It would be later in the day that the sky would ice over with clouds and the snow would fall steadily. At one point during the night, we were afforded the the tiniest glimpse of the stars, glittering like diamonds against velvet.

It was three of us, but there was food, wine, and conversation. Though cold outside, the fire kept us warm. We slept well.

The thermometer read negative eight that morning. The finest ice crystals, like will-o-the-wisp, wafted through the alpine atmosphere. Lower down, there was fog, of which the sun tenaciously burned through, gifting us the slightest of rainbows.

Two of us would be heading back down, life calling us from this Backcountry respite. The other would stay another day. We had our one day of camaraderie. An adventure, and, a set of memories more precious than rubies or glass beads.







23 December 2014

100 Words; High Adventure with BBQ


Some righteous icicles out back...

It is the first time in many, many, many years I have done what white man calls Christmas shopping. Horrible. To assuage this psychic trauma, I treated myself to BBQ. The graham cracker stout beer was a meal unto itself. One you could cut with a knife, of which the restaurant's proprietor promised me a sharper one for next time. I smiled and thanked him for his time.

I guess there could be a next time; hopping down-valley for some BBQ and a graham cracker stout. That Christmas shopping thing? Bah-adding humbug would be trite-! Now that's for the birds.

21 December 2014

The Long and the Short



The river looking west...

It is the eve of the longest night, or the dawn of the longest day, depending upon your equatorial aspect. Of course, along those equatorial lines, the profundity of such celestial events like solstices and perhaps even equinoxes might not be quite as significant. It is when you get those changes in latitude and changes in attitude that these things even get noticed.

The day could be marked as an almost halfway point in the Long Dark. In a little over a month, we'll get direct sunlight back on the house. When we first moved here, I'd refer to it as our little slice of Alaska, but, over the years I've met enough cats with ties to Alaska in some form or fashion to realize what a fool I used to be.

So, we rage against the dying of the light. Curiously, Sabina digs the winter solstice because it means the days incrementally begin to lengthen for us. Come the summer solstice, she laments how the days will incrementally shorten.

And I'm the contrary one...

Town will be hosting its Christmas party. Funny how when you don't really celebrate that holiday, it kind of sneaks up on you. I try to decide if I want to go, if for no other reason than to see one of my neighbors in Santa drag. Besides, a town party means potluck and the potential for free booze.

Yeh, us kooky mountain folk...

On the other side of the solstice is Sabina's birthday. We count down the days to hut trip. It's snowing again and there's supposed to be another storm on the way, which equates to justifying our snowshoes. The other day, we bedecked my pair with stickers the way snowborders decorate their rides for however long that'll last.


What?!? It was something to do...

It might be the shortest day, but I got out to enjoy it. The snow might be falling, but it wasn't horrifically cold out. That mantra of no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. There are those who would call this the first day of winter. I would say we're getting to the middle point. Who knows which of us is right? Time is an abstract and it's all a matter of aspect anyway.

17 December 2014

The Fast

"Rather three days without food, than a day without tea..."-Chinese proverb

Jazz plays on the morning radio and there's a fire. Otherwise there's a curious silence about the house. I sip water, the only thing I am allowed to have for the next three and a half hours.

For the first time in five years I am going to see a doctor. Just an annual checkup, Sabina's idea. That whole thing of we've been paying for insurance and should reap the benefit of a free checkup. Nevermind the rare as hen's teeth occurrence of me taking ill.

Practically speaking, it can't hurt. My father would growl that my mother did not get herself checked out regularly. When she finally did go to the doctor after noticing something was amiss, the cancer that would eventually eat her alive was in its second stage. Granted, it was cervical, and, unless we are speaking in vertebral tongues, it is anatomically unlikely I could get the same strain.

So, I would say this is no biggie, but it is. See, we must fast for up to twelve hours. Nothing but water. I don't mind water at all. However, I cannot have tea.

I tried to lament this circumstance to Sabina. Don't eat? Okay, I probably need to watch my slim and girlish figure, after all, at nearly six foot six I have gotten up to one-hundred and sixty pounds. I might get a gut. No coffee? I can take it or leave it. No wine or beer? An indulgence.

But no tea? Madness! This is catastrophic.

"Oh, just pretend your the Dalai Lama and drink hot water instead of tea," Sabina said when I tried to explain my devastation.

"And shall I shave my head and wear yellow and saffron robes as well?" I asked, and she had the outright audacity to shoot me a look as though I was being melodramatic.

"It's just blood work," she said.

No sympathy at all. Clearly, she doesn't understand. Fucking woman.

14 December 2014

Powder

My whore red tea kettle passionately moaned the siren song of lapsang souchong. Stepping out with Milarepa-yes, it's true, I let the dog out-my feet sank down into six inches of of soft white before kissing the ice crust of base underneath. With a smirk of wicked joy I looked up at the bright diamond-dust coated peaks. After nineteen warm and dry days, snow had returned to my mountains.

One of my meteorological prophets, of whose oracles I consider a go-to, had almost audible excitement in his typed voice as he described the conditions. More snow is foretold in coming days. I have use for my snowshoes once more, and I couldn't be happier.

07 December 2014

It Might Get Loud


A little something I threw together for dinner last night...

The morning started with Pearl Jam and jasmine tea. Now, Tinariwen's Tassili album-one of those I was surprised I'd ever lived without-is my jam. Sabina is upstate, having partied with friends of her's from her new-wave days, those days when I was somewhere between twelve and fourteen. It's an annual thing, something that's been going on for thirty years straight. She jokes it's the closest thing she does to a reunion.

Something like this reminds me of how few people outside of family I've known for long periods of time. There have been occasions, when meditating upon the subject, I come to the conclusion I am just bad at forming long-lasting relationships. I've caught myself getting a little morose about this until I remind myself; misanthrope. When it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, I am something of a solitary creature. Having just a few friends and acquaintances has thus far not proven to be fatal.

Having the house all to myself in the bipedal context-there's still the matter of cats, a hound, and ferrets, thus meaning I am not completely alone-means the place rattles with music turned up to twelve and making myself something for dinner I don't normally have. Usually, this is some curry that the very scent of can cause a mild sweat in those of weaker constitutions.

This go-around, I went for something a little more prosaic; I steamed a pound of mussels. There was drawn herb butter with sauteed garlic and shallots, as well as fresh rosemary and thyme, and a little vadouvan seasoning. Some bread on the side and soak up the residual juices and butter all washed down with a bottle of pinot grigio and one of the Hobbit films rented from the library for the evening's entertainment, because I know how to party.

I contemplate a wander up a bit of Grizzly Gulch. Winter may have announced its presence with authority back in mid-November, but it really hasn't snowed since. It has also gotten rather mild. Only the most suicidal are attempting ice fishing-how bad does your marriage suck? I mean, can't you just lock yourself in a room and drink?-on the lake two miles, and six-hundred vertical down-valley. I question whether I'll even need my snowshoes, despite it being higher up. On one of my last walkabouts, I carried my microspikes, just in case, and ended up not needing them.

Sabina will be back in the afternoon, bringing my bachelor time to an end. Technically, that night she invaded my muthafuckingkitchen brought my bachelor time to an end, but that's another story. The stereo might get turned down a couple of octaves so there can be the occasional conversation, although, she can appreciate a loud jam as well. Because it has been mild and warm I have defrosted steak to grill and that will be accompanied by steamed artichokes. Nothing special. Just something to masticate upon whilst regaling one another with our respective adventures.  

29 November 2014

The Dude Abides


Chevy. My brother would say if any image encapsulates the breed of Australian Shepherd, it's this one... 



And this just somehow embodied his mindset...

My brother was the first one that noticed him, a puppy weathering a badlands downpour in an x-pen. For several years after, my brother would call that puppy, who would get to be seventy-five pounds if he were an ounce, in his prime, his dog. Yet, when it came down to brass tacks and bedposts, that dog came home with me.

When my daughter and I would go out to the farm to visit and she'd wander the length and breadth of the property, Chevy never left her side. Years later, even after the arthritis crippled him to where he could not join us for walkabouts, he would excitedly gallop up to her. If anything, he was her dog.

I used to ask my mother if I could take Chevy when I finally got a house with a yard. She would always tell me no, because, in his prime, he could scale a six-foot tall fence without complaint if there was a bitch in heat on the other side. He was not the type of dog to be hemmed in. Years later, after my mother died and I took both Chevy and Whistler into the mountains, I felt no satisfaction in my victory. They were my inheritance. My monkey's paws.

Chevy was trained as therapy dog, which fit his gentle and easy-going personality. My father would say the dog didn't have any enemies. To a degree, I believe that. I would tell anyone meeting my hounds that if Chevy growled at them, they needed to get the fuck away from me directly, because, obviously, they were the most vile of threats.

His arthritis first manifested within about four months of coming to the mountains. Over the years, it would progressively get worse. Yet, as long as he had a warm place to lay down, plenty of food, and the occasional pat on the head-even and especially from my daughter-he was reasonably happy.

That day I buried Whistler out back, he stayed by my side at every opportunity. Perhaps he sensed I needed comfort. Maybe he sensed his older half-brother was gone and not coming back. It could be that it doesn't really matter, that Chevy was nearby and I found solace in that.

It was within the last few days his breathing became labored. Almost like a constant snore. At first, I wasn't terribly worried. He still trundled around, drank water, and ate. It was last night, as I noticed the trails of drool from his mouth I felt concern. Morning came, and he didn't eat. My father once said the day Chevy didn't eat, dig a hole.

The ground outside is frozen, but you probably know where this is going...

One of the vet techs speculated part of the reason for his labored breathing was strain from his heart going. I theorized pneumonia. In humans, pneumonia is the body's way of saying fuck this noise! and shutting down, it follows the same would similar for something like a dog. In humans, we try so desperately to save someone with pneumonia, where as a dog has the option of being put down without someone getting slapped with a murder charge. In fact, it's called humane.

Dogs get the better end of that bargain...

Chevy's head rested in my lap, as it has many times. Sometimes, just to hang out. Sometimes, in lending that little bit of comfort. Trying to keep my composure as the hospice dose was given, I couldn't help but think of him saying something to me with his big brown and blue eyes;

The Dude abides...

This time, I will get ashes and divide them between my daughter and I. That was a difficult phone call to make. Both my father and sister seem to think, tragic as it is, there is closure with the other of the Grumpy Old Men passing into the Bardo. My brother tells me I did right by his dog. Part of me feels like I've either lost another touchstone to the memory of my mother, or perhaps a fetter of grief has been released, but I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it doesn't matter.

Here and now, I sip whiskey and remember. The last nearly sixteen years, and especially the last four and half when they were here. To someone else, it might be quite difficult to explain that Chevy and Whistler were beyond familiars, friends, or simple companions. I've lost a facet of my family today in a way language fails to articulate, six months and nine days after a similar facet was lost. I can never get this back. All I have now are the memories and the stories.



The Grumpy Old Men, Chevy and Whistler. Sabina took this about a month before I put Whistler down...

The Dude abides, is what his final glance told me. I take that anthropomorphizing thought seriously. It keeps me from screaming.

25 November 2014

An Okay Blizzard


Looking up at the north face of Leavenworth Mountain...

To say I awoke to righteous blizzard would be something between folly and hubris. The word blizzard might even have been a stretch. Sure, the sky was leaden and its murkiness obscured the high peaks. There was wind and drifts. It was perfect Colorado winter snow, falling only sightly to the side.

As I stepped out with the hounds, hence answering the burning metaphysical question of our times, I was perfectly comfortable in my fleece jacket and beanie, as opposed to my heavy goose-down parka. In some places, The wind had blown the snow to only a thin layer of crust, not even warranting microspikes. Whilst greasy and snowpacked in areas, the roads were open. The reality was it was lapsang souchong weather. Nothing that called for my treasured last infusion of Nepali black tea. 

I've yet to meet that storm, and, when I do, I cannot say with any certainty whether I'll celebrate or mourn...

A breakfast of berbere-spiced eggs and toast. Something warm and Moroccan on the menu for supper. A space of daylight hours with no obligations to fill up in between.

Sabina dropped me off at the other narrow-gage railroad station on the way to her obligations, two miles down valley, so I might snowshoe up the canyon. We were going to be kicking around the Mount Evans Wilderness in a day, and, although I wanted to get out there, I didn't want to wander too far afield. Two miles and six-hundred vertical was more than adequate.


Looking back down the canyon from the tracks at the edge of Cemetery Hill...

It took me forty minutes to reach the cemetery, on the far eastern edge of town. Uphill? Snow that was deep in places? Pshaw!

I've always wondered how quick I could make that trek if I was genuinely in a hurry...

Returning home with visions of further infusions of tea and perhaps a documentary or two, in my skull, I took of the slowly falling flakes and murky sky. It certainly wasn't a righteous blizzard by any stretch, and even the term blizzard might be out of context. Be that as it may, for storm to snowshoe through, it did okay.

18 November 2014

First Shoeings


An almost bluebird day...

After a six day cycle of storms, the snow is just deep enough for snowshoes. We agressively researched this circumstance on a brisk day by going down the canyon as far as the ruins of the Lebanon Mine, which the narrow-gage railroad uses for tours in the summer. There were still spots where we'd hit against root and rock. So it goes. It's still early season. Our getting out on the snowshoes spoke to our own sense of desperation.

The snow was slightly deeper along the warren of wagon roads that make up the old townsite, but that's because of slightly higher elevation. However, three days out from the last snows, some of the trails were already fairly tramped down. After all, the place is a bit of a whore. It was a bit of an effort to find a place to be first tracks. Then again, in case you haven't met me, I can be tenacious.

Already the snow has started to sculpt familiar trails into other worlds, unique for that stretch of winter. Always a fascinating spectacle to behold. More snow is on the way within the next few days. Sabina counts down the weeks for our hut trip. In those weeks, it'll be a given we'll be out on the snowshoes, if, for no other reason, than we need to be conditioned.

11 November 2014

Winter's Calling


A little rivulet along the Argentine Railroad Grade, two days back...

Despite the bluster to wind, it was a mild day. I would eventually record the high as fifty on the Fahrenheit scale, eighteen degrees above that of frozen water. Although I had a soft shell in my pack, the fleece vest I wore was suffice for bushwhacking through a heavily treed slope, which spends much of its day these days in shadow.

We climbed a couple hundred feet up the mountain, to an old wagon road my daughter and I found a few years ago. Other than a few cut trees at the avalanche chute, we were hard-pressed to find any notations of the passings of Man since out last expedition this way. Down on the main trail, we saw deer, prancing and cavorting in the woods. A day later, the magistrate would tell me hunting season was over. Perhaps the deer were aware of that somehow and frolicking in thanksgiving.

Later that night, sore and exhausted from scrabbling up mountainsides, I wondered if I was getting old[er] that such a walkabout would kick my ass. Then a gust of wind rattled the house. I knew what was coming, the meteorological prophecy had been doomsaying it for days. Now, my twisted skeleton was confirming it as more than just hype and other forms of hearsay.

***

I made note of the first flakes starting to fall shortly after ten in the morning. Sempai and I still tried to accomplish an outdoor project of covering some of his plants. No bad weather, just the wrong clothes. We didn't have everything needed to complete the project and I went to have my Brazilian-style shrimp-take that, weather! Ha-ha!-for lunch. It was shortly after two in the afternoon a traveler asked me about the Road.

"It's a long strip of asphalt which runs east-west through the state," I said honestly.

"I hear it's closed," the traveler said, somewhat confused by my very to-the-point answer.

"I've been detained as to not be able to check, but let's have a look-see," I said.

First accumulating snow, first closers along the corridor. It is the way of things. Even if Sempai, the bookkeeper, and I all agreed the amount of snow that had fallen, that continued to fall, hardly warranted it.

"Everybody's getting their snowlegs on," I told another traveler when they asked me how and why this sort of thing happened.

For the next three hours, I would be repeating words to that effect like a mantra. Or a broken record. Take your pick.

"Can't you just call the highway patrol and get an estimate of when it's going to open again?" A traveler asked me as he drummed his impatient fingers on the counter. He did not appreciate my reaction.

"They don't give us that!" I said only after my uproarious laugher subsided. "Sort of a covering of backsides on their part. See, if they said it'd be open in two hours, there'd be some people who'd be upset it took two hours and five minutes."

Some people translating into impatient, entitled pigfuckers, that is...

When everything opened up again, I pulled the trash and took my leave. Sabina was making pizza, Monday being one of the few nights of the week I let her into my kitchen to cook. I had a calming tumbler of whiskey when I got home. We pulled out our heavy down parkas for a walk after supper.

***



What a difference two days makes; looking at the Bull's Head from out front of the house this morning...

I awoke to single digits. The daytime high temperature would I would record would be twenty-two, twenty-nine degrees below two days before, and ten degrees below that of frozen water. Slush-bergs ambled down the river's current. In another month, there'll be places it'll be frozen over completely. The cats looked at the hounds and I like we were insane for stepping outside and I realized I'd need to start checking the indoor litterbox more often.

Despite the cold, there were still things that needed to be done. A few errands down-valley, a walkabout to a ruin at the edge of town. There's no bad weather, just the wrong clothes.

"Welcome to winter," I'd said to Sabina when I told her of the closer the day before.

Looking at meteorological prophecy, I'd wager I'm not far off, despite the fact it's six to ten days before my usual marker of when we lose direct sunlight on the house. It would seem winter decided to come a little early. Time is an abstract, after all.

I have the gear and it's been entirely too long since I snowshoed. We've only got six weeks to get conditioned for our hut trip. The only thing winter means up here is type of layering you do when playing outside. So it goes.

04 November 2014

A Dance and a Walk

The first accumulating snow of the season at ninety-one sixty fell two nights ago. It was maybe two inches, and most of it was gone by afternoon. Soon enough, we'll get our basecoat of snow that sticks around until late March into early April. That's just the way of it.

Our town's Halloween Dance, sponsored by the historical group, was held on the first of November. Of course it was. This is the same town that has its irreverent midnight Christmas service at ten at night on Christmas Eve with an after party to follow-the matter of that high-octane eggnog-and Easter sunrise service promptly at the crack of two in the afternoon, complete with the Easter Gorilla.

If this all happened somewhere else, I might think it was strange...

Sabina won second prize for her costume; the fermented fruit bat. Someone asked me what I was supposed to be and I replied with an eccentric polymath that got me a confused look from the cat inquiring and an eyeroll from Sabina, for which I cannot understand why. Truthfully, I wasn't completely in any sort of costume. Often, I've stated how I've gotten cynical toward holidays, and it seems to have gotten more pronounced in the years since my mother died.  

Since it was the start of November, some of my raiment was more in line with Dia de Muertos; the scarf the bruja made for me several birthdays ago, a sugar skull t-shirt, and what I call my Graveyard Jacket for its painting of the Tibetan Wheel of Life on the back and the memorial patch to Jibril upon the sleeve. I'm sure the bottle of Spanish red I was drinking straight from the bottle and hob-nailed, steel-toe boots made some sort of statement.

When the dance was done, I did my historical board member duty of helping with some clean up before retiring to our x-carnie neighbors' house for further merriment. I ran home to grab another bottle of wine and promptly extricated myself from the jacket, scarf, and steel-toes in favor of my down vest and some low-top hiking shoes. I have stated before I can only play dress-up for so long. The Halloween dance showed me that's any kind of dress up.

I recently told the gypsy wearing pants was me dressing up...

Certainly, I might have my punk-rock sensitivities, but that outfit was more my gutter-punk days in the city. Another skin, another life. Any time I wonder how much has changed in my years up here, I have something like this happen.

***

It was a pleasant treat to only encounter a total of five people on the trail. Given it's part of the CDT, it is quite the whore. There was snow, but it wasn't deep. I brought my microspikes, but I didn't need them. The glistening snow off the high ridges of the Roof of the World offered a dramatic scene.


The Citadel...


Herman Lake...

I had the tundra all to myself. The sun was hot upon my face. I was grateful for the cooling breeze that kicked up as I ate my energy bar. When I stood to leave, I thanked the landscape for the silence, serenity, and solitude. On the way down, a long-tail weasel, in its winter coat, ran in front of me. Mine was the only vehicle at the trailhead.

It certainly was a good day. One, which held a lesson or two. I would say with a fair amount of certainty that one of those lessons was to visit this trail after the first snows has fallen, as to experience its zen excellence in peace.

29 October 2014

Late Autumn Meditation


Ice is starting to form on the river...

By and large, it is has been a rather mild autumn. I've caught myself going without a jacket more often than not. Although, part of me wonders if it is not in defiance of the season, and, the season to come, instead of the ambient air temperature. Every year, as it cools down, I find myself silently wondering if I have truly gotten used to living up here, that my body has adapted to climate as my mind has to the environment. Most often, I know the answer is yes, but that doesn't stop the questioning.

There are the omens of change in the air. Breath being visible at night and the early morning. The snow on the very high peaks is not melting away. Shadows grow longer. The sun ducks behind the ridge between three-thirty and four in the afternoon, giving one a slight chill at first. In another few days, the idiocy of Daylight Savings starts, and it'll get darker that much quicker. A few weeks after that, the sun will not rise over Pendleton's massif and those of us along Rue Maji will not get direct sunlight again until the end of January. In my mind, the beginning of winter is the day I notice we've entered the Long Dark.

The other day, we went up Grizzly Gulch. On the peak for which the trail is named, as well as along Torrey's, snow devils danced is the high alpine gales. Where we were, the breeze had a slight chill, but was gentle. I managed to get a better look at the bones of the avalanche that occurred sometime last winter. It was amazing and terrifying to figure out where the slab ran and the scale of destruction it caused.

"Snow can do that?" Sampai asked me the time I showed him the photographs from that fateful June walkabout.

"Um, yeh," I replied. "It's compacted water, and water is actually pretty fucking heavy."

True to fact, the thing that kills people in avalanches, besides suffocation, is blunt force trauma...

In another month to month and a half, we'll be snowshoeing. A place like Grizzly Gulch will be a place we only go so far, as to avoid those avalanche chutes. The rhythms of the seasons. Sabina and I have already booked a hut trip for her birthday snowshoe and I imagine kicking up some powder. The other day, a fellow proletariat offered me a pair of cross-country skis and was utterly shocked that I didn't telemark.

Here and now, it's late autumn, and a mild one at that. I know what's coming. I can feel it in the marrow of my twisted skeleton. That is not now. Now is a hike up a bit of Dry Gulch. Might need gaiters. The sky is that shade of blue, the sun is shining, there's little breeze, and the air is mild. What a time to get caught up in the moment.

21 October 2014

Hardcore Desperation


Mount Sniktau and the Roof of the World as seen from atop the Bull's Head the other day...

A-Basin has opened, being the first such ski area to do so this season. Part of me is amazed by this, given the how little snow there is up on the tundra. Were it not for the wonders of modern technology, this would've never happened.

Desperate skiers and boarders head up, looking for a thrill. There's only one run open, which one meteorological prophet whose gospels I read called a WROD-White Ribbon of Death. I imagine it must be like the hardest of the hardcore surfers on the beach when the first signs of a new season are upon them.


Pass Lake, looking toward A-Basin...

I brought gaiters, microspikes, and had my down sweater in my pack, but needed none of it. Better to be over-prepared than under. My pack thermometer read forty degrees, eight above the temperature of frozen water on the fahrenheit scale. The slate colored clouds made what little snow there was on the ridges and in the shady spots that much more dramatic.

There were some rock formations I wanted to commit to my montane memory. Share some alpine intimacy with as I explored. Up along some of the terraces, I found a few excellent camping spots. Already, I think that far ahead. Having been up to Pass Lake during a meteor shower, I know the stars at night would be nothing short of striking.

Wandering along the ridges and rivulets, I eventually got to where I could see the lone run of A-Basin. Little black forms, like ants swarming over a clean and sun-bleached bone, sped up and down. The hardest of the hardcore. Part of me wanted to chide them for what I perceived as an act of desperation.

Yet, there I was, on a high tundra ridge surrounded by the mountain silence with chilled gentle breezes blowing by. It was sublime, certainly. I was endeavoring to experience some more alpine intimacy before the snow really starts flying and the snowpack really starts to build. Obviously, I was no better or worse.

Hardcore? Desperate? I reckon it is all a matter of aspect.

14 October 2014

Pair 'O Dimes


Seasonal mole stout beer, something that makes autumn grand...

The seasonal paradigm has led to thermals under t-shirts, instead of flannels over them. At some point, come deep winter, there'll be times when the regiment is thermal, t-shirt, then flannel, or even a sweater. Layers are never put away here, just rotated throughout the closet. So it goes.

A few days back, the snowline was at ten-thousand, and it was a rather definite line. Down at ninety-one sixty, it was flurries that at the heaviest point left a dusting upon windshields. We made a big pot of chili.

In those past lives I remember, but you do not, down below, in the badlands of eastern Colorado, or within the borders of the greater metroplex, a big pot of chili and snow, even if it was just flurries, meant holing up. Perhaps watching a film, or several, or perhaps grooving it out to some Mozart and/or jazz.

We went for a walkabout. These days, even when it's sub-zero out, I can only make through about two hours of streaming documentaries before I get restless. I have the ways and means and live somewhere that playing outside is a holy sacrament. It seems madness to waste the whole day indoors.

I catch myself fascinated by the myriad of mentalities. Country and city. Destination/resort and office. My siblings are both quite happy in their suburban enclaves with their respective families, thinking their elder brother is strange, bordering on crazy, for being a mounting man. Yet, I'd rather shoot myself in the face-twice, in case I missed the first time-than live in a land of perceived tickie-tackie.

Neither of us are in the wrong, it's just we have different paradigms. Simple as that. Things would be rather fucking boring if we all saw it the same way. It's something I have to remember when I encounter the traveler who looks at me funny for saying there's no bad weather on a blizzard day in mid-February, or the couple from California, heading to Vail, who gaze down their snouts at anyone they see as lesser than themselves. I don't always do the best job of it, but at least I can acknowledge that.

It is interesting to think of the shifts in paradigms. What was important once verses what has become so in the present. For instance, how I enjoyed reading Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg so much down below, and these days groove on Edward Abbey and Aldo Leopold. I find myself rather grateful for this, actually, seeing it as a way of rounding me out.

Certainly, I have regrets; I've yet to be to Brazil, the only language I have full fluency or literacy in is English, and other than bitch, I've never rode a motorcycle. Horrible. However, any time I might get the delusion my life has been boring-if looking at the pointed things I'm surrounded by doesn't shock me out of apathy-it seems something comes up in conversation; like the Sub Genius conspiracy theorist I once knew, the time at an artist's loft where I ended up with my own bottle of Spanish red because the hostess ran out of glasses and I'm not proud, or bushwhacking up some rockface for kicks reminds me that I've had, and, continue to have, a good time.

This meditation-brought to you by the First Syllable Om-coalesced as I wandered the canyon in the early morning hours. Old Scratch required some maintenance-baby needs a new pair of shoes-and I wasn't about to waste part of the day by going back home to cat nap. Time was I would have. That time is not now.

 
At the Lair of the Boogieman...


The Boogieman in question. What? Did you think I make this shit up?

The paradigm these days is I can find zen bliss in an early morning walkabout as the sun first starts to paint the valley walls of our Sahel with golden brilliance. There is silence and the air is pleasantly crisp. It's sublime. My morning tea had a new mysticism to it when I got home. I have found when you ride the currents of your shifting paradigms like that of a cosmic river, you find yourself having more adventures than if you planned them, which is good, because the quickest way to make a deity laugh is to make a plan.

07 October 2014

Mid-Autumn


Looking down the river from my sitting rock across the street from the house...

As I finished up with my obligations Saturday, noting it was havemanyintoxicants-thirty, all I could think was thank the gods and bodhisattvas the calendar had turned October. The weekend before, that last weekend in September, saw my love-with malicious intent-of crowds in its full flower. One of my volunteers even noticed. I told her come January, I'd be begging for such crazy, crowded days. January is when it is dark and quiet and cold and liner time stops working.

It is not January or even close...

The leaf-peepers are not as legion as they had been in the waning weeks of September. Some struggle to understand how our leaves could be past peak here, or how the winds could be as audacious as to strip many from the trees. There's still some color, lower and on south faces, but that, which draws the lookie-loos like locusts to crops, has faded. Now comes the time we catch our breath and get ready for winter.

Cornices begin to form on the stark and sheer tundra ridges. It was a warm day without wind, which is a rarity so high up. Even and especially this time of year. I relished the quiet and mild as I watched a group of three marmots sun themselves on a rock just below my vantage point. Sniffing the air, I wondered how many more times I'd be out here before the snow and avalanche danger barred my way for the next several months. I don't have an answer, so I cherish the time I've got.

It's not like there'll be nothing to do once the snow starts flying. Just the other day, Sabina and I came across several new-to-us ruins along some obscured side trails of the 730. This, of course, is just another facet of the magic of this place; wander the same roads for years, and make a different turn and there's something else to discover. Were I a romantic, I'd say it's like falling in love all over again. I don't have a romantic bone in my body, but it certainly reminds me that this is the place I need to be.    

30 September 2014

The Land of Storms






Pass Lake and one of its officially unnamed companion lakes...

It's the first accumulating snow of the season. At least above eleven-thousand. Meteorological prophecy foretells of the snow-line possibly dipping to eight-thousand by Thursday morning.

Although I was buffeted by some Tibetan gales upon the Roof of the World, it was not nearly as blustery or cold as I anticipated. The snow was not that deep. Maybe three or four inches in most spots. Although, for some of the places I walked, I was grateful I opted to wear gaiters. The occasional small snow devil danced within my field of vision.

Back at home, a two to three-thousand vertical foot difference, it was partly to mostly sunny with a strong breeze. The high peaks on either side of the valley were not enshrouded in grayish-white cloaks. Looking west, toward the Roof of the World, the clouds were thicker. Being up there, some of the ridges were hidden behind veils of mist and snow and cloud.

This is the time of year when the jetstream dips to fourteen-thousand feet, where it shall stay until April. Part of the reason it can be so windy up here. Anywhere the continent splits in half and waterways flip a coin by virtue of gravity as to east or west, the winter storms can linger for days. Sometimes up to a week and a half. It is said, and there is empirical evidence to back it up, that mountains make their own weather.

I'd simply wager that along the roof of the world, doubly so...

There were a group of snowboarders desperately trying to pile up enough fresh snow to ride. The exuberance and folly of youth. I was out for another late-season alpine excursion. Soon enough, the landscape will be blanket in white that will not melt until as late as early summer. There are some snowfields where I live that I speculate have not melted since before this part of the world was covered with many-miles deep glaciers. Such a thought pleases me.

I don't know how many more excursions I'll be able to make to the tundra this season. I don't know when I'll be snowshoeing for kicks. It doesn't matter. Here and now, I was able to get into that region of my outback. After walking a few hundred feet, I had solitude, silence, and serenity. That alone brings a smile to my face.

23 September 2014

The Days of Gold and Rust


A lovely windbreak along the north ridge of west Loveland Pass. I named thee The God's Throne. Class, any guesses as to whose heretical backside may have sat there to take in the view whilst munching a trail snack?



Looking at Eagle Rock again. Obviously, autumn has up and popped here in our Sahel...



Up top of Mount McCellan at over thirteen-thousand feet. Torrey's Peak, in the distance, certainly is striking, and could lead to deep contemplation. However, I edged to that point at a crawl. Beyond that ledge was the naked space leading downward to the Steven's Gulch Trail some couple thousand feet below. I wanted the view, but not the vertigo...



Another from west Loveland Pass, this time around the krummholz. This may very well be one of the headwaters of the very river that runs across the street from my house...

It is a safe assumption that the aspens are peaking throughout our Sahel. There is a certain mysticism of walking through a wooded area with the golden leaves floating down like snow. The tundra is a riot of various shades of rust. Raptors soar upon the descending jetstream, hunting marmots and pikas as they scurry about in preparation for the coming winter.

I've been craving the alpine more than below timber as autumn advances. Soon enough, the snow will fly and it will stick. Up high, this means some places will present higher avi danger, therefore, keeping me away until summer comes once more. Somewhere like Loveland Pass, it means the Backcountry skiers and boarders will be out, and they are not always courteous to those who recreate in the snow upon snowshoes.

It's also hunting season. I am mindful of which wooded areas I go to as to avoid a case of mistaken identity. Certainly, I've established I'm tall. Freakishly so-superfreak, thank you-some have said. It would certainly to be awkward for someone with a rifle to take my walkabout rhythms as the movements of a lithe moose.

 Like the alpine inhabitants, I find myself hurrying before the snow really starts to fly. All those places I want to walk and explore before they're sealed off and I frequent my winter grounds. As I wandered Loveland Pass today, a red-tail hawk few past me at eye-level as it gained loft to hunt. It was fantastic. There were no greetings or goodbyes as our gazes met for that brief moment. We were just two creatures wandering the alpine, in search of our own goals.

14 September 2014

The Beach Weather of Indian Summer


Sabina's sunflowers are hanging in there, despite the fact we kissed freezing-with tongue-the other morning. And I name thee Defiance...



One last columbine hanging on...

The other day, I drove down-valley-two- thousand vertical-to our community garden plot amongst rumors of weather and visions of pesto pizza. Although, it had been breezy up along the upper western valley as it meets up with the Roof of the World, the sun was shinning and there were very few clouds. I would later document the high temperature of the day at sixty-eight.

As I drove east, the clouds increased. Within the span of fifteen miles, I had gone from sunny to murky. From the sixties to the forties. I put on my soft shell over my t-shirt and zipped up against the damp chill to harvest my basil, purple bell peppers, and tomatoes. Later that night, I donned a sweater. On the drive up, I noted how the murk followed me, causing me to remark later that the dragons chased me up the valley.

Job, for all our differences in theology, will sometimes tell me he lives to hear of the world as seen through my eyes...

It was not without a bit of a chuckle that I heard the first snowfall happened down below and we did not receive a flake-unless you speak in context of some of the snowbums that inhabit the area. Oh, the schadenfredude. Whilst it was cool the day after weather moved in, the sky was clear and the sun was warm.

"This is beach weather compared to Denver," a traveler said to me.

"It's always beach weather in the mountains," I said glibly, even if, technically, and, geologically, the last time there was an ocean in this state was seventy-some-odd-million years ago.

"Even in January?" The traveler asked me skeptically.

"Especially in January," I replied with smirk. "Just think in the context of McMurdo Station. Easy."

Hey, on equatorial Europa, our January weather would be positively 'pocalyptic in context of temperature, and meditate on that for a little bit of perspective...

My Friday's walk had a bit of bite to it, but there is no bad weather. Just the wrong clothes. I did note there are far less neighbors holding court on their porches. Another omen of the changing seasons; the summer residents returning to their winter nests. The sun now sets straight down the middle of the valley, which can be blinding when walking straight into it. Slowly, our nearest star will shift south, toward the ridge line of Pendleton. A portend of the long dark.

The planet's tilt on its axis is the reason for the season...

Succeeding days have been warmer. Meteorological prophecy has foretold of little chance of precipitation and mild temperatures. Beach weather. The possibility of grilling and chimineas without the heavy layers.

I've heard whispers of  indian summer. I just call it autumn. It's all in the perspective.

09 September 2014

A Hymn of Thaksgiving

I am surrounded by a sense of antiquity from a bygone age so close I can still almost hear their phantasmal voices, and stark, unyielding nature. Where the landscape is juxtaposed with rock and river and wind and storm and temperature. A kingdom of dragons, where the fantastical dances upon earthy feet. Where the Divine speaks in inaudible tongues of which you just might hear if you learn to listen. This dichotomy is fantastic.

I have found my bliss and follow it relentlessly, and I encourage you to do the same...

We exist in a world where there are still dinosaurs. Although, we commonly call them birds, thus removing the majesty and mystery. Then again, if you could see a T-Rex or a stegosaurus either in the wild or within the safe confines of a zoo, their magnificence might be considered old hat.

This is time when the future is now. Once upon a time, this was the purview of sci-fi; a world of hand-held computers approaching quantum speeds and the language of an atomic cosmos revealed. We have made our first forays off this tiny island into a great black sea. The most audacious of us will launch further into this inky black void of interstellar to explore, to perhaps find a new home.

There are those who might say these are the End of Days. Hell on Earth. Certainly, there are enough horror shows to go around and then some. And yet, these are just constructs, for the Wise will tell you we are the architects of our own imprisonment. In our hands, we hold the keys to a kingdom greater than any described by the flimsy religions of Man. We need only realize that.

These are, the best of times...

05 September 2014

The Turn


Sabina's sunflowers are finally starting to bloom along the back of the house...just in time for frost...



Looking up at Eagle Rock and our back folly. With a wrinkle, a squint, and the benefit of the doubt, you might see some of the aspens turning gold...




A birthday present from a friend. I have named it Clyde, and step into my parlor, muthafucka...

Standing at the tarn of Hell's Hole, the wind kicked up. It carried with it a whisper. It spoke of layers and ice and deep drifts and avalanches. In the moment, under turquoise blue sky with very few passing cotton ball clouds and warm sun, I noted how the bonsai-baobab bristle cones were striking, and smiled at the harsh tundra beauty. Along the trail, squirrels scrambled about, stocking up for the chilled days ahead.

"It's coming," Miguel Loco said a day before.

"I'm not ready," Sabina said two days later, pointing to already changing leaves. "Don't want it."

Want and ready really have little to do with it. It just is. The turn, much like any other natural event, does not bother to consult with a species of half-bald monkeys who call themselves Man. It is folly to wish or expect otherwise.

A meteorological prophet of whom I give some credence on account of odds called the day after my birthday most likely the warmest day of the rest of the year. It was a lovely day, with a gentle breeze, strikingly clear skies, and soft sunlight. Sabina and I wandered what we deduced were some old logging roads. I was fascinated by some of the rock formations. The landscape there looked to be conducive to a good snowshoe come winter.

That night, we had a chiminea with leftover cake and generous glasses of wine. It was a deliciously warm evening. The stars were brilliant and the first quarter moon, obscured by Pendleton, illuminated the ridge line in phantasmal hues.

Here it is the beginning of autumn. There was a dusting atop my personal Kilimanjaro, twelve-thousand, two-hundred, eighty-two feet high. In some places, it's late summer. Harvest time. In other spots, spring has sprang.

Time is an abstract...

There are places that have never known seasons. Voids where the nearest star is just one of the brighter ones you might see looking up at night. Locations that have never been-and perhaps never will be-insulted by a name given to it by a human being. There's poetry in that, but perhaps I'm just getting philosophical.

I know better than to thank or blame the time of year or the weather out my front door for my introspective and philosophical bents. These things just happen, like the turning of early autumn leaves from emerald to gold. It just is, simple as that.

31 August 2014

A Discipline of Tea

Water is the most precious substance on the planet. Ask any scientist. I know I certainly do enjoy it, and, on the trail, even and especially during a hard-won push, it is ambrosia beyond compare. You may or may not see, but certainly feel, the Divine coursing through you.

It probably goes without saying I do likes me my dark beers, red wines-although there's something to be said for a summer white after walkabout-and whiskeys. There is something, which borders upon ritualistic about coffee with breakfast. My roaring twenties were spent almost exclusively in coffeehouses. In my opinion, the Buzz makes the best mocha in the county.

However, there is something that touches upon sacred when it comes to a cup of tea in the proper context. A cup on a cool morning or whilst watching the snow waft down in the slate of early evening as it becomes an overnight blizzard. Sitting out on a warm afternoon with a book and the songs of bird and breeze. You may or may not see, but certainly feel, the Divine coursing through you.

I no longer recall the exact what/where/when/why?/how of when I started drinking hot tea. My mother was a fan of sun and iced teas, which, to this day, I find utterly vile. I'd drink iced coffee first, and, that is an affront to nature along with SUV limousines. An x-girlfriend of mine introduced varieties of tea of tea other than jasmine. Although, she could never be fucking bothered to take tea with me. During the time we were together this bothered me greatly. These days, I see a twisted sort of symmetry in that, which probably only makes sense to me.

In the shrapnel of a bad break-up and the Machiavelli that followed, I got a little self-destructive with the drink. A deep-seated fear of mine is becoming my father's father; a man whose skin was the color dirty gold and urine upon his deathbed, because, for him, one was much too much, but ten was not enough. It was pulling myself out of that downward spiral of my own self-destruction that I adopted my discipline of tea. To this day, tea time, most often than not, proceeds cocktail hour. The only time my daughter and Sabina have considered an intervention with me has involved my tea consumption, what for how often I might want to skip to the loo.

Jasmine tea used to be my go-to. I still rather enjoy it, but there are so many other varieties I have in a stack of glass jars in my kitchen. They all have certain contexts, and it would be insulting to have them otherwise. I used to say hot jasmine tea could fix anything, even that, which was not broken. The bruja's rollover broke me of that superstition, just as my mother's illness exposed the phrase it's okay for the lie that it is. Tea may be meditation and insight and a passing touch of divinity, but, for all its magic, it is not that kind of a miracle-worker, and you've just got to accept that. Hurtful as it may be.

It's been an overcast morning with passing showers. Meteorological prophecy whispers of the possibility of it clearing later. I sip on Kuan Yin tea-oolong has this been going on?-to start the day. Shafts of mountain sun peak through as we contemplate the day's adventures.

Every so often, I change the amount of alcoholic imbibments I have to make sure I am no where near my father's father. Not too long ago, I went a week without coffee just for something to do. However, it has been said a day without tea is like three days without food. To me, those are true words.

29 August 2014

Persistence of Time


One of the buildings at the Diamond Mine...

"Time moves on
that's the way,
We live and hope
to see the next day,
That's all right...
Time's short
your life's your own,
'Cuz in the end
we're all just dust and bones..."-Guns n' Roses

It bordered upon heartwrenching when I first beheld the ruin. When last I'd been there, not but a week or two before, it was still standing tall. Back when I'd first moved here, the walls were largely intact. It was only a winter or two ago that they began to fall prey to pot hunters and Backcountry vandals.

A homicidal growl pushed past my thin lips and I made no effort to stop it. I wanted to find the authors of this destruction and stab them in the chest. Thirty-seven times. Thirty-eight would be excessive.

What?!? Think of it as evangelical Buddhism; the First Noble Truth is the realization of suffering. Feel the pain?

I had to let it go. Chalk it up to people suck instead of feeding that dragon. All across our Sahel, I have seen examples of affronts both to the wilderness and to the ruins of those gone before. It saddens sickens me.

Still, we live in an extreme environment. Wind, rain, freeze, and thaw can do as much damage, if not more, than any half-bald primate with scavenger's lust or small genitalia trying to impress someone-sometimes a combination of both. Even a place like Santiago, which us mill stewards managed to get a new roof on, will one day crumble into nothing more than splintered wood and rusted metal.

Nothing lasts and everything changes. That's the way of it. Even the stars die. Immortality is a curious jack-off fantasy at best, and a cruel joke at worst.  

I used to dread the march of years. Of getting older. Old was a terrifying concept to me. Now, I sort of look forward to it in a strange way.

A man in a warehouse told me once you reached thirty, you no longer had a bad attitude, you were opinionated. I was twenty-three at the time. A few years later I found I was cultivating the attitude of some older curmudgeons I know; here I am, you're looking at it. Although, I think I've established that I have a hard time caring about the social construct of reality in context to me.

Unless we want to poke at it for comedic value...

I confess that wasn't always the case. During my roaring twenties, even and especially about this time of year, I would note my chronological age and question what, if anything, I had accomplished. Sometimes, I would get morose because I didn't have the success one was suppose to have. Other times, whatever it is that has kept me on my Tao of Chaos would rise up in defiance. It finally hit me one day that, indeed, I've gotten to be who and what I wanted to be if I got close to growing up, and that's a grand revelation to have.

The seasons change and world marches on. Ruins fall further into decay. Mountains grind down to dust. Oceans dry. Young stars hurtle closer to their million-year long death-throes. So it goes.

It only becomes depressing if you give it that kind of power. Me? I find a queer sort of poetry in the infinite finality, knowing the only thing that doesn't change is that everything changes.

24 August 2014

Of What was Lost and Found and Other Bizarre Happenstances

Back when I first started studying and practicing Buddhism, I had occasion to meet a man in a coffeehouse who introduced me to some of the sutras. He was older than I, being mid-fifties to perhaps early sixties. During his years, he'd spent a great deal of time in Buddhist countries and spoke of having traveled the length and breadth of the fabled Silk Road.

During one of our conversations over a cup he handed me what I would later learn was a Thai Buddhist prayer stone, encased in a pendant. Years later, a man in an import shoppe would tell me how monastery monks would carve these and they'd be traded almost like baseball cards. Such a happenstance got me to think of the stories of holy relics during the dark age Europe.

At twenty-three, I took this fetish with reverent awe, which could be considered awkward from someone so full of heresies, and a respectful inclination of my head. To me it carried the wisdom of someone more learned than I in the ways of the Dharma and the scents of the fabled Silk Road. Perhaps, I was giving too much power to a thing that was, when it came down to brass tacks and bedposts, just a trinket. A fetish. So many years later, I don't think it matters.

Some ten years after I was given that fetish, when I was trying to be something other than a friend to the gypsy, I gave her that Thai Buddha. To her credit, after her curb-kicking and me saying done and over, she offered to return it to me. I declined, saying it was a gift to her. She needed a talisman so well traveled-gypsy!-more than I. Occasionally, I confess, I regret that decision because of the auspice of how I received that trinket, but it would've been uncivilized to ask for it back. I might be the worst kind of bastard with the morals of an alley cat, but I do have manners.

A few weeks ago, at a bead show in Fairplay, I came across a piece of punched brass I immediately recognized as the countenance of a Thai prayer stone. On one side is the Buddha, and, on the other, some Thai script that might read eat at Joe's for all my literacy in that tongue.

Of course I had to have it...

Since its acquisition, I have found myself subconsciously touching or looking at it. Memories of a man who claimed to have traveled the fabled Silk Road flit through the corridors within my skull. I catch myself thinking I have recovered something I lost, even if, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, that is not quite the case.

***

To barrow a metaphor a friend used a few years back, it would seem summer's back is broken. I've mentioned some of the omens I've observed. The emerald of some of the aspens has faded to duller green. One meteorological oracle I consult has spoken of a cool and moist autumn. It would seem we are seeing its prelude.

Another omen of the changing seasons is one of the local history groups giving once a month talks. Usually, this is September to April or May. A way to stave of cabin fever during the cooler, darker months, perhaps. This year, it's started a month early. The magistrate, who's great-grandmother and grandmother ran a few of the boarding houses in the area during the halcyon antiquity of the mining days, found, what he called, a younger couple to give a presentation of mining boarding houses in the mountains.

The mister of this couple was easily five, if not ten, years older than me. A great many cats I'm acquainted with refer to me as young man. The baby. Of course, a great many of these cats are my father's age, if not older. I mine them for stories and they speak of when they had my energy levels. I find irony in this. Perhaps the only thing more ironic was when the magistrate, whom is possessed to a warm and jovial manner and, it has been joked, would befriend a rock, told me recently that, whilst he considers himself a patient man, he thinks I perhaps have him beat.

Then again, I am in possession of formidable patience of which saints and monks prey for and upon...

***

Although, I've often thought of Job as my guru, it seems our recent conversations have not involved him breaking down cosmic wisdom. It seems I've been trying to encourage him to pick himself up by his bootstraps more. What a friend does.

"Well, my young friend, thank you, as always, for the scintillating conversation," he said as we concluded our most recent chat. "You've given me so much to think about."

Curious. Time was I'd go to Job for advice. For insight and a differing perspective. That after our conversations over many, many, many cups of coffee, I'd have a skull full of new information of which to process and apply. We've know each other almost twenty-one years now. One of my oldest and dearest friends. It would appear that within the course of almost twenty-one years, the tables have turned.

Funny old world...

20 August 2014

Going Nowhere and Everywhere


Whilst walking along the Roof of the World...

Some of the best walks are those without a set destination. Point your feet in a direction and get to trekking. It is there you can find wondrous things.

The tundra starts to rust. Recently, I told someone the alpine has that vibe of a juxtaposition of the Scottish Highlands and Patagonia. Being mostly Scottish by ancestry makes me wonder if there's part of its appeal. Then I dismiss the notion as being absurd. I've never been into ancestor worship. How I succeed or fail as me is more important than the glories and blunders of those who came before.

  
Looking west...

I could say where I stopped is my new happy spot, but I also found this absurd. Erroneously, I was saying that about Grizzly Gulch for a time before I realized how the zen and serenity and magic and mystery and coo-coo ka-choo was in so many of the other places I wandered. I fucking live in my happy place, I realized, like I had to be reminded.

That concept of Kashmir, don't you know?

A ptarmigan chortled an avian hello as I headed down. Recently, I met a man who was obsessed with knowing what another person's trade was and telling everyone his own. These days, when asked what I do I reply with caustic honesty; whatever I fucking well like. I never wanted a career or a house in the ticky-tacky suburbs or the two-point-five kids-one's enough. What I've wanted is to be able to go my own way and do as I please along this personal Tao of Chaos.

I'll be forty-two in two weeks, and, so far, so good...

13 August 2014

Other Side of the Season

I find a queer sort of joy in those imperceptible things. The subtle changes. Whisper in the ghost or, that, felt down in the marrow. The realization of how it's different now.

According to my records, the average lows are now in the forties. Think swing bands and those classic black and white moving picture shows. There is ravenousness amongst the hummingbirds and mosquitoes. Last hurrahs before migration or the death-sleep. The other day, coming back Guanella Pass way from a road trip, along the western side of Mount Bierstaidt's massif, there was a thin dusting of snow. I have read in Alaska, such phenomena is known as termination frost; when you see snow on the high peaks, it means summer's coming to an end. 

A photographer of my acquaintance and I trekked Watrous Gulch. So queer to have two-legged company with me on a Tuesday that's not blood related. The wildflowers are starting to fade, but not the serenity of the landscape. There are no ugly or bad times up here. Just the morphing between the seasons. I noticed the a few leaves starting to fade. In a few weeks, the leaf-peepers will be up, looking for a muti-colored thrill.

Later that night/early unto morning, with said photographer in tow, Sabina, and I went to Pass Lake to watch stars fall from the sky. The shrapnel from a previous supermoon gave the illumination of monochromatic daylight across the ridges. We wore fleece, and I wore a skullcap. It was surprisingly warm upon the tundra that late at night/early unto the morning. The few plummeting cosmic jewels we saw were worth drive up. Peter Gabriel's Passion was our jam, and it was in perfect context.

Of course, I could argue, it was the stars, and when isn't the celestial worth it?

Humidity, Colorado monsoon storms, whilst hopping up over for errand adventures. I wore jeans for a walk to the post. Jeans, or, other long pants, after dark are becoming a little more frequent these days. So it goes. It's the shadow of the season. I still wear sandals. Shorts, when I can, until late September, early October because I fucking say so.

Summer grows old and autumn is coming. Imperceptible birth-cries and death-rattles. The way of things. My birthday is in a few weeks and we might be hut tripping it. Something to do.

Life is good, but when ain't it?

05 August 2014

Bierstadt


Part of my tiny world as seen from the summit of Mount Bierstadt...

It was still dark when I forced myself from sleep. The small hours. It'd been a few months since I'd done this to myself willingly. The last time involved politics. I had a promise to keep.

My digital weather station in the kitchen told me it was fifty degrees out. Meteorological prophecy foretold of rain, the same chance as the day before. Monsoon. I lit a stick of incense and asked of the dragons to hold off on the rains until we were back down, just as I have this summer when we've gone up to Santiago.

So far, so good. Either I've caught the ear of esoteric Chinese rain gods or I've been lucky. Choose your superstition. I joke I owe the Long Wang either a live chicken or a virgin, whichever I can find first.

A quick breakfast of toast and eggs with coffee and my daughter and I were off at the speed of owl feathers, reaching the trailhead as the first light of dawn started to illuminate the alpine landscape. One day, she wants to summit Mount Danali. In the meantime, she wants to get a few of Colorado's fourteener's under her belt. I promised to do one, and the day had come for the marker to be called.

The lot was already full. Even on a Tuesday, Mount Bierstadt is a happening place to be. It is considered an easy fourteener by virtue of the fact you start out at eleven-thousand, six-hundred sixty-nine feet to reach a summit of fourteen-thousand, sixty-seven feet. Although, most any mountaineer will tell you, there are no easy fourteeners.

Personally, when I end up atop a mountain, I prefer twelve and thirteen thousand foot peaks. Less people. Sometimes less trail. Some of those mountains do not have names affixed to them in the clumsy and arrogant tongues of Man, and I find poetry in that.

Still, we were up in the alpine zone. One of my happy places. The amount of people at o' sunrise-thirty was lite compared to what we'd encounter a few hours later descending. A moose cow watched us nonchalantly from the willow bogs. Marmots and pikas stood sentry on rock outcroppings. There were elk, and, on the way back home, even a group of bighorn. My daughter commented she was surprised to see so much wildlife in the presence of so many humans. It was the Wild Kingdom roll of the bones. Sometimes, when on solitary walkabout in the outback, it's a stretch to see a lone chickaree.

On the summit, my pack thermometer read forty degrees even. The skies were clear with puffy clouds overhead and the coiling dragons from a day before's and the coming afternoon's storms to west. Mount Evans, a mile and a half away by the treacherous Sawtooth Ridge, gleamed in the mid-morning light. I could clearly see the observatory one of the universities had put there, and caught a slight pang of envy for what must be spectacular to see on a clear night.

As we started to pick our way down, one member of the first group we encountered was playing The Final Countdown at high volume. I contemplated quiet seriously feeding him to Frozen Lake, far below, but not before accidentally eviscerating him, not only for disturbing the pristine mountain quiet with something as banal human musics, but also for his choice of said music. Not a court in all the realms heavens, Earth, or the hellscapes would've convinced me.

No, The Worm, Your Honor, I don't know what happened. He came jogging past me blaring muthafuckingEurope-and imagine how dirty I feel for knowing that!-and his entrails just suddenly fell out before he pitched over the edge. Screaming. Why, yes, I might've had my knife out, but it was only to innocently and wholesomely clean my fingernails, and at no time did I drive one of my trek poles into his eye socket. Twice. What did his friends do? The Worm, Your Honor, you forget yourself! After all, what sort of base and degenerate creature would befriend someone who listens to muthafuckingEurope?

Airtight, I tell you. In fact, I'd have probably gotten a medal.

We reached the trailhead before noon. My daughter pointed out a comment in the registry book which illicited a a chuckle; 'need a beer, stat!' As we threw our gear into Old Scratch, we took in the mountain with a sense of accomplishment. Of course, what I really took from our walkabout was something a man around the magistrate's age with a fabulous British accent said to his wife after a rest-break;

"Well, c'mon, ol' girl, let's go conquer something!"

Oh, fuck yes. That is to become my trekking mantra.



The intrepid mountaineers atop their day's conquest...

01 August 2014

A Cool Evening During High Summer

At fifty-three quaint degrees on the fahrenheit scale and sixty-six percent relative humidity, I could just make out my breath escaping my body in wispy clouds. I wore my down vest over my flannel and t-shirt, but also shorts. It may be ninety-one sixty above the surface of the world's oceans and it can snow at any time of the year, but it's still summer. I stand in punk-rock defiance of the chill.

Oi! with middle finger held high...

There is smoke from chimneys. From outdoor grills and embryonic bonfires. There is no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. The rains have stopped, and we step outside once more. Breaks in the clouds give hope to seeing stars.

It is not too cold for mosquitoes-fuck. Not too cold for shorts-fuck you. We have an invite to a party at the old fellowship hall, should it still be on once dinner's done. It's still summer. It'll warm up once more. That is the way of it. The cyclic wheel turns a bit further upon its liner spokes.

29 July 2014

Murky Sky

The air felt heavy. Back when I helped my father put his mother in the ground I learned not to compare Colorado's humidity with that of North Carolina's, but this certainly qualified as a sticky day for these parts. Early on, the blue sky and sunlight were swallowed by the curling and coiling Chinese dragon clouds, which hung pendulously over the mountaintops. Meteorological prophecy foretold of rain, and, a great deal of it at times. Monsoon in the High Country.

I feel that this has been a wetter summer than the last few. The last time I remember it being so moist was five years back, the last summer my mother was alive. There are differences, of course. The uniqueness of any given moment not withstanding, this year I don't have someone I care deeply for being eaten alive by some viciousuglymuthafuckigdisease-not bitter-and it's been rather hot. That one summer was cool enough that Sabina would often say her summer had been stolen.

It was the kind of day that spoke of not wandering too far afield. I unintentionally turned down a walkabout around Pass Lake, on the other side of Loveland Pass, in favor of scrabbling the boulder field opposite the rock wall I scrabbled a month and a half before. As much fun as I had, part of me imagined an anthropomorphic group of bighorn watching me thinking; amateur. There was a flat area on which I sat, taking in a grand view of Mount Pendelton. I caught myself thinking it'd be a grand place for a picnic that was in walking-and a minor climb-distance from home.

The day spoke of a lazy walk through the dirt streets of town. Pleasantries exchanged with neighbors. Of hot tea on the porch whilst reading Edward Abbey-Hayduke Lives! muthafuckas. Watching the murky sky churn slowly by. There was a wicked smirk of joy upon my face. I am a sucker for a gray day, but I might just suck.

Late in the day, it finally began to drizzle. A soft gentle sound. There was that clean scent that only comes with rain. It rained like Africa. Like Borneo and Brazil. Like the mountains of Colorado on a late July afternoon. Sipping my tea, I sat back on the porch to take it all in. A mystical set of moments in a place I firmly believe is fucking magic.

Meteorological prophecy speaks of continued rain and a cool-down before warming up for the weekend. So it goes. In a few days Sabina and I will be volunteering at a bluegrass festival, and it'd be nice to not be drenched, but that's still a few days off to worry about. In the moment I'm in, I watch the dragon clouds, swirling and coiling about in the heavy murky sky.

22 July 2014

Water Hymn

It was a hot one; low eighties in the shade along the south face. My Thai-print t-shirt became clammy with sweat. After crossing the one gulch, where the chances of encountering another biped lessen exponentially, the modesty of covering the aberrant way my body's put together-twisted spine and famine-victim build-melt away. Function over form.

Take your socially constructed idea of attractive and stick it right up your...

I was grateful for the breezes on the overlook. The waterfall played cacophonic hymns in tongues older than oldest languages of Man. Milarepa and I greedily rehydrated. It was the sweetest of ambrosia.

One of my adventuring buddies-the one whom could tell me he'd been to the moon once and my only question would be; once?-has spoken of the sheer joy of sticking one's feet in a waterway during walkabout. Having done it, I know he's not lying. However, let me tell you, brother, when your house is across the street from the river, there's something to be said for waiting.

And I am possessed of the formidable patience monks and saints prey for, and upon...

I get home, drop the pack, step back out with a mug of tea, some water, or even a beer, and dangle my legs in the water, its origin melting snowfields just a few miles and a couple thousand vertical feet away. The mosquitoes swarm about-I genocidally swat as many as I can between applications of repellant, knowing there's still plenty for the bats and swallows to eat, as I've seen them prey-and relax. The current provides its own backbeat. Slow songs of the eldest of gods. A perfect way to cool down on a hot day.

It's like a kiss from the Divine..with tongue...



A moment of contentment...