"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

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


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.