"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 January 2016

Notes from Camp 1 I; Experiences

Two aspects of the same location...

The place we slept; Moana I'Kena Huina. If the House of Owls and Bats is basecamp, then this place was Camp 1...


The last time I saw the ocean I was a teenager. What I saw was bluer with higher tides than my adolescent memories of the Atlantic. At one point, storms in the Pacific Northwest would be the cause of big waves that would batter the coastline. It was fascinating to watch. On a few occasions, I saw flying fish, but never what caused them to come above the water. Sea turtles would ride the waves. Surfers of the most ancient of orders, surviving from a time of dragons and titans.

We went to the water a lot. Sabina would speak about the fascination with it. Something primal being felt in watching the ocean. In the mountains, I watch the river, sometimes with monkish concentration, and the high lakes carry a certain sense of zen. For me, I think going to watch the water-aside from wanting to catch glimpses of the life contained therein-was the sheer scale of it. Like looking up at the night sky into the totality of the cosmos, the enormity is right there, but it is difficult to comprehend that you are staring into yet unseen depths.

Perhaps my favorite vantage point...

The coast, like everything else on the island, was borne of lava. I really liked the ruggedness of where we were staying. No resortie-sand beaches with hula-girls for us. I lost track of how many times and routes I took bouldering the rocks, occasionally getting spritzed with sea spray.

It was along this section of rocky coastline I would see my first whale. I was coming down to the water on what would become perhaps my favorite vantage point for the first time, when, for the briefest of instants, I caught the fleeting glimpse of a pectoral fin coming out of the water. Much like the only time I've ever seem a wild mountain lion, had I been a second earlier or later or blinked, I would have missed it. I all but teleported to the edge of the rocks for a further look, but it was gone. This did not prevent me from returning to the house with the most wicked grin of joy on my face. 

"I saw a whale! Guess this means I can go back to Colorado now."

The other time I would see whales was back on the way to the Kona airport. It was witnessed from a distance, but the countenance was unmistakable.  Looking out the window toward the ocean, I counted between six and eight spouts, which I postulated were mothers and calves, and two breaches. That was the total National Geographic moment. Yes, I clapped my hands together excitedly and may or may not have yipped like an excited puppy.

Certainly, I'd love to say seeing whales, even and especially that first glance and/or the breaches, was magic and mystery that filled me with a deep sense of cosmic oneness for all other living creatures upon the Earth, but I'd be lying. I'd like to say witness not one breach, but two, was like having a prayer answered by mythological anthropomorphic deity, but the only time I prey is in the context of the food chain, and I'd not insult the Divine by tarting it up in anthropomorphic drag. It comes down to this; that seeing whales was nothing like I figured, but it was no less really fucking cool.



Hilo was a dirty, stinky places hemmed in by stripmalls. Its downtown reminded my of a strange sort of amalgamation of Denver's Asian quarter with my years-old memories of East Colfax thrown in for a spice. The difference here was more people of European descent in aloha-wear looking for a thrill. The oddest thing I found there was it was another of our number, not me, who got city/crowd-stabbie first. We departed directly after that.

Pahoa, on the other hand, was a funky little 'berg, and you gotta have the funk. It was a strange crossover of a tropical Morrison, maybe some of Pearl Street in Boulder, a Pagan sabbat, and some aspects of the towns in our Sahel. I know a few mountain acquaintances who would probably feel right at home. I realized I could potentially get in a little trouble there and have a fun time doing it. The woman who ended up doing my latest tattoo reminded me very much of the bruja.

Said tattoo...

Unlike the mountains, upon initial inspection, there does not seem to be a lot of archeology here. The tropical climate and the still-active lava devours it. Even though a town like Pahoa is a sugercane station almost as old as my town, it sometimes seemed hard to grasp. Up in the mountains, even being on the edge of wilderness, one did not have to walk far to find the passage of Man, be it a rusty miner's nail or a beer can from the 1970s, preserved in the alpine air. Where we were, one had to hack into jungle in hopes of finding remains not made from less-permanent material. I heard tell of ancient petroglyphs, but never got a chance to see them.

This has gotten put on a list for next time...


Other Places;

A couple sea turtles at the Black Sand Beach...

Observatories up top of Mauna Kea. To someone who sees playing outside as holy sacrament, these are the equivalent of monasteries of esoteric orders...

A lotus pond...

We traveled to two different beaches in the same day. Both had different color of volcanic sand, one green, the other black. Oddly enough, the ground and the water at the black sand beach was cooler. I couldn't help but wonder if it was the time of day.

During most of our stay, the only water we encountered was salt. Fresh water came out of a tap. Some squatters further in the jungle used rain-catchment to get water. I began to wonder if there were any rivers on the island. On the last day, we were taken to a waterfall, plunging four-hundred twenty feet into the jungle. It was striking. Sabina and I agreed the sound of the river it fed reminded us of home.

The way Mauna Kea rose up reminded me of every picture I've ever seen of Kilimanjaro. Well, sans the snow, which I found queer. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept hold of the calendar dates, and I knew it was still winter, even if it felt like July. Sabina remarked the mountain's visitor center, being at ninety-two hundred was almost like being home. I countered only if it were late September or early October.

We beheld the sunset at thirteen-thousand seven-hundred seventy-nine foot summit, watching the observatories open up like night blossoms composed of tech. I was fascinated by those and the tropical sun setting from the summit of what is truly the tallest mountain in the world. I was also fascinated by the lack of snow. Being a thirteen-thousand back home would have involved snowshoes and down and checking the slopes for the possibility of avalanches.


I realized during the trip I would make a lot of comparisons. North Carolina for the humidity and greenery, Kilimanjaro for a thirteener, places in Colorado for some of the towns we ended up in. Under  normal circumstances, I would be vexed by this, the comparisons detracting from the uniqueness of the actual experience happening right in front of your eyes. However, I think what I was doing was something of a human thing; drawing on personal experiences and stories-in context all the National Geographic and nature documentaries I've seen-to make sense of where I found myself. Perhaps I'm wrong and that was a rationalization. I've yet to find a satisfactory answer.         

24 January 2016

Headlong Flight


A tragedy that occurred the day we left. The gypsy called me twisted for telling her I had an airtight alibi. The nerve... 


Now, the shit gets real...

I am seventy miles and ten days from home. Within the next day, the miles will increase, but the time will decrease in strange temporal ways before the wake up. Small comfort.

For ten years I lived in a big city. Most of it in the shadow of the monoliths of downtown. As we first entered into those borders of neon, I wondered how all these people do it. How I did it.

I cannot see stars. The air stinks of exhaust and sewage and thousands of millions of bodies both unwashed and overly perfumed. When I was younger and more foolish and wanting to escape the badlands of eastern Colorado, this held promise and adventure and yet unnamed treasure. Having left that all behind so many years ago now, this is a form of perdition that would make Dante and Milton cross their legs and blush.

I do find myself grateful we left when it was dark. The stars shone with dazzling brilliance, but the mountains were shrouded in new moon shadow. I think my ire would be worse having watched familiar peaks recede in the distance. An upside is we will be returning home during the day and that first glance of the Roof of the World coming out of the greater metroplex is is cathartic to someone like me.

So, I am trying to focus on the journey ahead instead of what I feel I've been forced to leave behind. The mantra of ever forward can be difficult when having left a Kashmir. I keep reminding myself I'll be back soon enough, but part of me-a very large part-is aching for the peaks and rocks and the adventures contained therein.

Yet, I am starting upon a grand adventure, so I should just let go and let the good times roll...

San Fransisco...

I have spent four hours of layover and didn't meet any gentle people. There was only one cat with flowers in his hair, and I'm guessing he was coming back from where we're going. I'm kind of disappointed. The old song lied-lied!-to me.

A belly full of Japanese and a beer from the same place. A reward for surviving the first leg of the journey. Because of the airline overbooking we lucked into catching a later flight and missing our first layover. However, neither of us are too keen on this flying thing. The air over Colorado is always turbulent apparently, which was less than thrilling. These vehicles do not seem to be made for someone with my measurements. I get cramped and crushed for hours on end.

The next leg is five hours and change, which I think borders upon grotesque. Then a two hour drive to where we're staying. In the last twenty-four hours I've slept somewhere between forty-five minutes and an hour. Here and now, I am too wound up to increase that period of rest.



It was something to see the Pacific rolling and roiling against the California coast from the air. We were already high enough that the city we left had been reduced to toy-scale miniature, and yet the ocean is still massive. The largest body of water on the planet. Somewhere out there is Challenger Deep, the lowest spot in the world.

And we get to fly over this body of water...

For the most part, we've been either over or through clouds, chasing a setting sun. I watched the twilight dapple light and shadow upon the shifting forms of the clouds. Occasionally, I see breaks down into the ocean, It occurs to me this leg of the journey is a study in air and water, both as liquid and vapor. It is a void in which time will fall back three hours from home.

More by exhaustion than relaxation, we manage to catch a couple of catnaps. Mine have been shorter, I notice. I have no idea the distance we've crossed. Time is nigh on impossible to figure in the void. We will be touching down on what is arguably called the most isolated island in the world and I find myself eager to be upon Terra Firma once more.


Kona to Pahoa;

I was reminded of North Carolina what for the humidity. It was the first time I'd ever exited a plane in that fashion, going directly onto the tarmac. Sabina remarked it was very Casablanca. Apparently, in Hawaii, you no longer get flowers draped about your neck upon arrival, unless your in-laws decide it would be a cute and otherwise corking idea. I was not terribly excited. We ate pizza in the parking lot, though, I was so hungry I question whether or not I actually tasted anything.

On the way from the airport I tried to make a brave show of it, but being up for a day and a half with a handful of catnaps hit me like a two-ton heavy thing. I guess it speaks to how much I trust the company I have found myself in for the next ten days. One of the last times I saw Sabina's parents, her mother said I was good for their daughter. Given I am usually tolerated, if that, by parents, this a great honor.

There is very little light pollution, making the stars deliciously brilliant. Because there are not eleven and twelve thousand foot peaks hemming us in, there are more of them to see. I wish I had a telescope.

From open windows I can hear the ballads of frogs and a hymnal of surf. Occasionally, a chicken crows in the small hours darkness. I have some vodka to unwind. Sleep is in order. In the daylight I shall walk to the ocean.

22 January 2016

Prelude; Shuffling Toward Real

Mountain music, and context for the following day...

The trouble started the tenth of January...

Here we are; the day before. In twenty-four hours we shall oscillate from security to airborne to layovers and a wholly different landscape than the one I see out my window. My bags are packed and we tick down the hours to the ride to the airport.

The shit is getting real...

All my bits of apprehension and other fears bubble to the surface. This is the first time I've crammed myself into an airplane in nearly ten years. Part of me wants to get fabulously roaring drunk. There was the acquaintance who offered me some of her special brownies-mountains-and I consider contacting her. Perhaps then I'd not be so wound up.

Then I think of not wanting to miss anything. I wonder how much I'll sleep in the next twenty-four hours, and how much of that will be because of insomnia. I question whether I'll bother to read any of the book I packed for the journey.

It was habit I collected my weather data. The routine of knowing how to dress for the following day. As I often say, I live where playing outside is holy sacrament and I like to know if I need a sweater. It is supposed to be nineteen here tomorrow. For me, after early morning, that will become irrelevant.

I could speak to the concept of between I first read mentioned by the Dragonriders of Pern-roughly thirty-thousand feet-being far colder. That the locations we lay over and our ultimate destination will be warmer. The fact I'll not be tracking weather conditions or pellet stove fuel usage for the next ten days has been one of my bugaboos, though no one I've mentioned this to has expressed sympathies, and this vexes me.

So, I go for a walk around town. It is fifteen degrees out with no breeze, just nice and crisp. The sky is clear. I find the walk to be soothing, reminding me this is my Kashmir. I come back home and listen to the radio, taking in the peaks, which surround my house. My mountains. This is my place in the world and I know I will return to it, but, things are about to change. For ten days, I will have none of this. I will be elsewhere.

I must not fear...