"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

28 June 2014

Shades of the Season

William's Fork Reservoir, off Ute Pass, May Fourteenth and June Twenty-Fifth respectively. Amazing the difference a month and eleven days makes. It's also just kind of funny I wore the same Thai-print t-shirt and bandanna on both roadtrips... 

I know how to read a calendar, wear a watch, and on the am early-leaning side of punctual. Even so, as I've mentioned, time is something of an abstracted concept to me. It hadn't really dawned on me how close we were to high summer up here, despite the greenery and paradoxical mountain heat.

This changed with a few things; first was a few of my Friday volunteers saying they'd not be around in a week. See, volunteers are not expected to show up on holidays. This jarred me into remembering the encore performance of the community melodrama is the day before said holiday, and I need to dig out my playing-dress-up outfit.

Fireworks snapped, crackled, and popped in between roving thunderstorms last night. Another omen of Let's-Get-Drunk-BBQ-and-Blow-Shit-Up-Day. Fucking Perfect. This will be going on for the next week and a half, if not two. It's a given, at my professional obligations, I'll see more proud 'Mericans in flag-drag than normal. Because nothing shows patriotism-anyone ever notice how riot is in that word, thus showing how dangerous nationalism can be?-like tacky flag clothes and the detention of  low-grade explosives.

An x-girlfriend, military brat and conservative in her countenance-taste of the strange-once told me I might be a little more patriotic if I lived/traveled abroad. My sister's first boyfriend, a charming lad from Scotland-part of my ancestry's from there-whom did not like me mentioning he came from a nation-state of cross-dressers-those flannel miniskirts...I mean kilts-would say it was better to lie and say you're Canadian. Sure, this means you can't pronounce out or about and have some curious ideas about bacon, but you also have less of a chance of getting rolled on the streets of what was classically called Calcutta.

I figure when I get to Morocco or Tibet, if asked where I'm from, I'll say the mountains. If pressed, I'll mention Terra Firma, Earth. It wouldn't be a lie. Suck up and deal.


An early season hail pounded our tomato plants at our community garden plot. I'm not overly optimistic about them. However, my peppers, seem to be doing well, as is Sabina's squash, peas, lettuce, and carrots. The basil is also going great. We'll have more pesto than you can shake a metaphoric stick at and all it costs us is some weeding and the fuel zipping up and down valley.

Yeh, that seems fair...


Chevy has been more active, but also more arthritic. His twisted right leg gives out on him more. He does not suffer this well. In his prime, he could, and often did, climb six-foot fences to get to a bitch in heat. Even when I first got him, he was far more mobile. It wasn't until that fourteen mile roundtrip walkabout that he was sentenced to being house dog. He wanders around the property, but walking much more than that wears him out. His company around the house is enough.

Milarepa's my trail hound these day. My go-to gal. She's pretty bullet proof too. Rushing water crossing? Could use the bath. Group of trees felled by an avalanche? Named for a Tibetan bodhisattva, been in the mountains since being weened, climbing is in the blood. Not many social graces, but who really needs those out in the Backcountry?


Sabina's parents will be up in a day and marathon runners dash past the house, whilst cyclists go the opposite direction, conditioning for the numerous races that happen over summer. A few of us will be doing some stewardship up the Santiago Mill, something I've obligated myself to on alternating Sundays through the season. A way to get up on the tundra and play archeology all at the same time, something I dig about our Sahel. When I was a kid I either wanted to live in a nature preserve or a museum. Watch what you wish for. I got both all at once.

I have my list of places I want to go exploring before the snow flies again. Some solitary, others with companionship, two legs, four, or both. It doesn't matter, for it will be the stuff of high adventure no matter what.

24 June 2014


It was with a sense of morbid joy I noticed the standing water in the freshly turned earth of Whistler's grave has all but gone away. By the willow, where the water is at its deepest, the yard Buddha we have resting in its hollow sits upon a patch of moist ground and saturated grass. Omens of runoff truly being done and over. Just in time for the monsoons, which is curiously funny if you think about it. A week ago, a neighbor referred to the standing water table as melted permafrost. I bit my tongue from asking how in the name of almighty fuck could it be permafrost if it melts every spring.

Grizzly Gulch is a trail sculpted by water, the level of which determines how one dresses when walking it. In autumn, boots and gaiters. Winter is when snow pants, taller boots, and either skis or snowshoes are in order. Come summer, even and especially as runoff abates, I walk the trail in sandals. At two of the water crossings it was knee-deep on me-some of ya'll may have needed full-on scuba suits-and that's the point where gaiters are useless and I'd rather have wet feet in my sandals than squishing in socks and boots.

I once read how you can have the latest and greatest gear as advertised in tabloids like Outside or Backpacker, but if you don't know what you're doing, at least the corpse you leave behind will be fashionable. Personally, I've never been good at, nor have I ever cared to be, fashionable. Despite the fact I was walking a High Country/Backcountry trail in sandals and cutoff BDUs, I had my layers and other necessities in my pack. I had no intention of walking all the way to the basin of Grizzly Peak. Even just past the first water crossing there was still snow, and the peak itself had some decent looking fields upon it. I deduced it'd be a given the trail would be covered by snow before treeline, and I'd be post-holing.

That snow I figured on was about a half mile from the third major water crossing. Between the second and third crossing is an avalanche chute. The bones of trees from a long ago slide still litter the drainage of the gulch and the sides of the trail. During the winter, this is pretty well the place you want to turn around.

If not...well, hope all's well between you and whatever it is you prey to and upon or try to ignore...

I could barely make out the still-deep snow where I got stopped. What got my attention more were the twisted and snapped and ruined remains of so many trees. This had happened recently.

"Oh, fuck me..." I whispered in a combination of shock and awe.

That's Grizzly Peak in the distance...

Colorado does not get tsunamis, what with being a land-locked state. Well, if one went back a couple hundred-million years ago when this was an inland sea, then maybe, but now we're just splitting hairs. An avalanche strikes me as the closest thing a tsunami in these parts these days.

A walked over snow and downed trees to about the center of the slide area, mesmerized by the sheer scale of the destruction. The dark clouds building over nearby Gray's and Torrey's Peaks and the chill on the wind of an embryonic thunderstorm gave a certain sense of macabre to the scene. It was more from some strange sense of respect for the dead than the snow under the broken trees that got me to turn back.

This was as far I was going, conditions not withstanding, it wasn't the time to go further...

I figure later in the summer, when the waterline is even lower, I'll make my bid for the basin of Grizzly Peak. One of my favorite spots in our Sahel. The snow will most likely be gone from this newest avalanche chute, leaving only the twisted and snapped and ruined remains of so many trees. As I walked by down, part of me morbidly wondered what else I might find twisted and snapped and ruined there, having been drowned by that tsunami of frozen water.

22 June 2014

The Sting

I discovered I outgrew my bee-sting allergy a little over a year ago quite by accident. It involved what could be termed addiction, or at least a very keen interest in chocolate. Even and especially dark chocolate.

Hammond's, a local candy company, had made a sixty percent dark chocolate bee pollen bar. The label had me at dark chocolate. I found the bee pollen gave the bittersweet an interesting touch. So, I got another bar for Sabina and I to share for dessert.

"You want to tell me exactly how you're still alive after eating this, Mister?" She asked me when I showed her the candy bar in question.

"It's a complex process of a heartbeat, the intake of oxygen, the consumption of food, and sheer force of will," I said, amazed that she was shooting me something of a disgusted look.

"I meant this," Sabina said, showing me the warning on the wrapper.

"Warning! Do not consume if you have an allergy to bee pollen or bee stings..."

I know how to read and do it a lot. Once, I mentioned I had little respect for those who couldn't read and none for those who just don't. In the name of satisfying my chocolate jones, I'd become someone I had no respect for.

Apparently, allergies can change over time. I had asthma when I was younger and it seems to have long since disappeared, which is strangely auspicious given I live at elevation. When I was allergic to bees, it wasn't Epi-pen talisman allergic, just some hives and itchies.

"Well, praises be!" I said in my father's Carolina accent. "A miracle!"


I was mowing out back barefoot before breakfast and the days adventures got underway. Bees danced through the dandelions as I sliced them down. One was not so lucky, its mutilated remains flailing by pure chaos atop my left foot. In its death throes, its stinger pierced my flesh. It was a pain I'd not felt in a very long time.

Of course, were my twisted spine straight, I'd be over seven feet tall, instead of only being around six and half. I have a connective tissue disorder similar to that of Marfan's Syndrome, sans the heart issues, and because of that, even and especially when the weather changes rapidly, my joints creak and groan and snap and crackle and pop. I was married to a Catholic once. I am no stranger to pain, but, like fear, I refuse to be in its thrall.

With Sabina's help, I applied the necessary lotions and potions. After spending so much time trying to avoid getting stung, I'd almost forgotten what to do. I finished my morning tea and the mowing. We had breakfast and went about our day. Quite obviously, I survived.

It's not death if you refuse it. Only if you accept it.

I do confess to being a little upset about this turn of events. See, I once read about someone being bitten by a venomous invertebrate and they got superpowers. Unless one was to say my words can carry a bit of a sting, nothing has happened. Nothing!

My disappointment is boundless...

19 June 2014

Summer Vignettes

Recently acquired outdoor funk for the House of Owls and Bats, because, you gotta have the funk. It has been named R. T. Tavi...

Sabina planted sunflowers along the south side of the house. Everything is green and budding, if not blossoming. Our columbines, pinkish-red in their countenance, have popped into a full bouquet. Lilacs have finally bloomed in town and on our walks through the dusty streets, Sabina stops to bury her nose the abundant flowers. The short, sweet, season is upon us.

My daughter, having spent a week in New York City-New York City! Git a rope!-found herself feeling the affects of altitude sickness when we started up Kearney Gulch. It makes me glad we didn't try climbing Mount Bierstadt, which was our alternate walkabout. She may have been worse off. As it stands, we made it about quarter to half a mile before turning back. We spoke of astrobiology and black holes on the way down in between water breaks. The fact we got out into the bush in one another's company was enough.

At home, we played chess and rummy. For dinner, with the scant bit of leftover lamb from Father's day I made a Sri Lankan curry. Something that could easily become my new favorite curry. We concluded our visit a day later grilling a jumbo lobster tail, which my daughter insisted I share with her, despite me telling her I'd eat the vile devil meat and she could content herself with salmon. She had garlic butter with her half whilst I had north African chermoula butter with mine. The way we tried to take one another's portions and defend our own could be likened to wolves fighting over a kill.


No one seems surprised at all that with the coming of hot weather I am reading a book called Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places by Bill Streever. Of course you are, my daughter, Sabina, and Jezebel have all said. Fucking women. It's not the only book I'm reading. I tend to read between three and six at a go-there is so much consume-but this is the main one. One of five. Oh, and a Calvin and Hobbes compilation when I don't want to commit to a chapter in one of my tomes.


Sometimes, I wonder if I'm not becoming more like my father. Whilst grilling, Sabina had our few minutes of growlies. This happens around cooking time. Despite our years together, I can still sometimes-a lot of times-get territorial in my kitchen.

"The reason you drink?" Our Montanan import asked me.

"Yeh," I chuckled. "Oh, we snarl sometimes, but we're devoted to each other. I enjoy her company most of the time...a lot of the time...some of the time...okay, I tolerate her because she pays the other half of the mortgage."

He laughed. As did I. The thing is, my parents would say the same thing about one another, and the only reason my father is no longer with my mother is because her immolated bones are scattered near the ruins of Waldorf. So it goes.


Warm sun, cool breezes, thunderstorms, and graupel up high. Brilliant stars and chimenias with wine and smores. The tourist crowds are thick, even on the weekdays. The shadow of the season.

We look forward to meals and trips, either on foot or by vehicle. There'll be camping sometime in the coming months, before the green leaves turn the color rust, flame, and spun gold. Summer may be short and sweet up here, but I feel I have all the time in the world and our days are just packed.

12 June 2014

A Walkabout, A Roadtrip, and Omens of a Meal

Some mood music...

It is possible runoff has peaked. The river does not roar quiet as fiercely at night and my oh fuck! rock becomes steadily drier. I've gotten back my creekside footrests for when I go to watch the water. This makes me happy. I only hope the standing water out back begins to abate soon. It is doubtful Sabina has enough ammunition in her pistol to deal with the mosquitoes that may be born out there.


I had been promising Milarepa a walkabout with me for almost a month, but had not gotten around to it. This will not do. Not keeping a promise, whether it's to something that walks upon two legs or four, is a bad scene. It'd been at least a year since I'd walked as far as Pavilion Point up the Argentine trail. Milarepa very excitedly walked with me up the trail.

The intrepid mountain hound in question shooting me a downright adorable look at the ruins...

All that's left of the old dance hall is a chimney. That's not stopped it from being a popular place to hang. Any time I've been there, I've found empty beer cans and spent bullet casings. I noticed a fresh windbreak erected of the chimney and some stones set up like a bench, making it look like more the party place.

I'm all for a funky place to camp or drink a beer in the shadow of a bonfire, but this kind of bothered me. Perhaps I wondered how long it would be before pot hunters started disassembling the chimney brick by brick. I question when that hilltop will catch fire from the carelessness of some revelers. 


Further meditation, debate, and discussion on self-inflicting my phobias;

Mount Evans is something of anti-climatic fourteener. Like Pike's Peak, it is one you can summit without climbing. Well, not climbing in boots, if you dig my meaning. The Mount Evans Road was suppose to be part of a link in the fourteener chain between Pike's and Long's Peaks respectively. Obviously, that never happened, and this stretch of tundra pavement stands as a testimony to that endeavor. The highest road in the whole of North America.

You probably remember me mentioning my issues with heights. So how, out of nothing other than something to do, driving up a narrow, steep, winding mountain road with no guardrails and thousand foot drops had become a good idea seems more than a little daft. Even and especially when a storm battered the mountain with wind and sleet. White-knuckled, reciting every mantra I knew, I pressed on for the summit. Tenacity kept me from turning back. Turning back would've been failure.

The true summit of the mountain at the end of the lot...

"Are you going to be okay?" Sabina asked me at the top. "Should I drive down?"

"'I must not fear...'" I whispered to myself. "No, I know my vehicle, like you know yours. I'll handle it."

After all, you don't climb up something you cannot climb back down...

The clouds broke and the sun shone across the tundra once more. It was striking, as were the views. There was something so very primeval about the landscape. A strange mysticism that grabs my attention about the alpine. As if one could be forgiven for expecting to see long-extinct megafauna around the next bend. 

We wandered around and took a few pictures. I got into Old Scratch and started the engine. With a deep breath, I prepared to head back down. I recited cartoon litanies to myself;

Sheer drop off? Yeh. Jagged rocks? Uh-huh. Certain death? Yep...

"Bring it on," I whispered to myself as placed my foot on the accelerator. "Muthafucka..."


It is official, my daughter's making an effort to come up for the Hallmark that is Father's Day. One never knows, what with her mother, but that's another story. For the occasion, I pull a leg of lamb I acquired out of the freezer. It'll get rubbed with some salt, pepper, and Moroccan spices and let sit a few days. A simple something, of which I salivate about when I think of it.

She's hoping to stay a few days. I mention the possibility of either Kearney Gulch or Mount Bierstadt for a dad and daughter adventure. She expresses excitement at both. The fact she's coming for dinner is thrilling enough. Either possible walkabout is just an added treat.

05 June 2014

Pet Cemetary

Oh, c'mon! It's the Ramones!

We'd only been up here but a few months when my cat, Judas, the niger daemonium feles, had his kidneys finally fail. A six year long battle I fought along side him, which he lost. A devastating defeat because it seemed we had the problem licked. I got good and drunk and buried him out back. Sabina had a stone made to mark the spot. A sweet gesture, but would've known where it was even without a marker. I'd have never admitted it when he was alive, but we had a bond.

A couple years later, Mom Cat Luna French Kitteh gave birth to a litter of four kittens, one of which died the first day. Whether stillborn or accidentally crushed by its mother we never bothered to find out. I put the body in the freezer to be taken out with the trash, what was done with stillborn puppies on the farmsteads of which I grew up. Both my daughter and Sabina wouldn't stand for it, insisting I bury the kitten they'd named Ickle Meeper-something I found only slightly less absurd as human mothers naming their miscarriages things like Nevaeh. With a garden trowel, I put the feline body not far from where I'd buried Judas.

There was the unfortunate events of a couple weeks ago. Something I still catch myself thinking isn't quiet real, despite the very vivid reality of it all. I watch Chevy arthritically trundle about and Milarepa spasmodically frolics. The cats play, hunt, and rest. My eyes drift toward that spot out back, by the square of granite, and I think of the rudimentary necropolis I've assembled of passed on familiars and failed offspring. I used to tell my mother she could bury me out back, should I get bored enough to die.

The swampy conditions of a truly impressive, and, somewhat frightening, runoff continue to advance. The ground in front of the willow that is not underwater makes squishy sounds when a foot falls upon it. Water sneaks up through the grass briefly at those points. I can see standing water in the freshly turned earth by that granite slab.

When I first started dancing with dead for money, way back then, Job remarked that he always saw me as possessed of a curious and questing nature with an underlying sense of morbidity. In his estimation, triaging potential organ and tissue donors was perhaps one of the best ways for me to make money, and I did find the gig savagely interesting for the five years I did it, even if I fought almost daily with the bureaucracy that ran it. As I watch the water rise out back, I morbidly wonder if hundreds of thousands of years from now, when archaeologists are excavating the bones of this little 'berg, if they'll come across the remains of my buried familiars. Preserved, like peat-bog mummies.    

03 June 2014


I suppose some might find it a right rib-tickler that despite being very nearly six and a half feet tall and living in an area with a lot of vertical geography of which I like to get up on top of as to see my tiny world from on high, I kind of have a problem with heights. There are probably those, critics, who would say-baselessly!-that this makes sense, for I am full of contradiction. I take it as something of an annoyance, like seasonal allergies.

After all, I have deeper, darker, fears. Late at night, when the demons come for tea, we sometimes discuss them. At length.

Curiously, my worst times of vertigo occurred down below, in the greater metroplex, not the mountains. Once was a soccer game I attended with Jezebel and Belushi. The second was when I saw the Dalai Lama. Both instances involved nose-bleed seats and narrow walkways. Throngs of humanity pulsed around me like some mega-organism. Sometimes, when I think about those two incidents, I wonder if my subtle terror came from the great crowds of eking and scratching half-bald primates surrounding me and not the idea of what would happen if I lost my footing and fell.

I firmly believe my Kashmir is place where playing outside is a holy sacrament. Coming from someone who describes themselves as heretic, that might not mean much, but maybe it means everything. Perhaps it doesn't matter.

The rock walls around the ruins of the Mendota Mine, at the far west edge of town had been calling my name with a siren's sing-song voice. So, I clipped on my chalk bag and away I went. I never climb much higher than twenty feet off the ground. Miguel Loco once warned me to never climb up something I cannot climb back down. Sound advice.

Although, at one point or another, I inevitability look down and everything drops away. I freeze. Only for a heartbeat, but, time being the abstract that it is, that is a very long heartbeat. It is said fear profits no man, and panic, even at ten or twenty feet off the ground could be disastrous. With a deep breath, I look up once more.

Before I learned any of the Buddhist mantras, this was my jam;

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn my inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain..."

Hearken, and be made glad, congregation, at the good news; the gospel of Frank Herbert...

Of course I made it to the top. I made it back down too, obviously, having had a grand time playing about on the rocks. This little muse-brought to you by the First Syllable, Om-would not have happened otherwise.

Around my neck, one of my fetishes is a fossilized shark's tooth. It was found in the deserts of Morocco, and is said to be around twenty million years old. I imagine critics snickering at that one.

Of course you do. It's ancient and from Morocco. Ain't that just your funny little way?

Funny or not, I've mentioned being frightened of sharks, but I also respect them. My shark's tooth is a talisman and a reminder. It tells me there are things in this world, which scare me, but that it would be folly to allow myself to be in the thrall of my fears. After all, I bear my jugular to no one; god, man, or mental state.