"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

07 February 2016

Epilogue; Back to the World, or, Beyond its End

On a recent walkabout through the town cemetery, we witnessed a miracle of wind-loaded snow. We laughed ourselves sick...

Come down music...

It was the twentieth of January when we arrived home around five in the afternoon. How I maintained consciousness for another four hours still baffles me. The feeling of sleeping in my own bed was akin to the warm embrace of a long-lost lover.

Yes, I did ask my pillow the next day if it was good for it too, what of it?

Six days later, on my first real walkabout since returning from the island, I noted direct sunlight had returned to the house. I had a glass of wine out in the first soft daylight of two months in celebration. As far as I'm concerned, when the Long Dark ends, winter is halfway over. Then again, in my timekeeping, winter starts when the sun no longer rises above the ridge, and that's mid-November. Perhaps I function best in places where time is something of a dodgey concept.

Of course, I was back to a place I did have to keep better track of hours and minutes, rather than just whether or not it was night or day, what with professional obligations and all. Life slid back into familiar rhythms fairly quickly.

There were obligations and errands. Meals and walkabouts on the free days. We came across fresh cat tracks in fresh snow. It was glorious, but I am unsure if it was a mountain lion or bobcat. See, the fresh blood in the snow helped to talk us out of further investigation, despite the coolness of the National Geographic moment. Besides, it would have been a dick move to disturb the cat during its dinner, not to mention potentially fatally dangerous.

Seeing those tracks served as perspective. On the island, upon land, the most vicious predator was a species of primate that had figured out how to manipulate fire. All the scary beasties were out in the ocean. Here in the mountains, things with tooth and claw walk the same same trails we do.

Because I live in a smaller community, people I didn't even tell, but were acquainted with, would ask me how my trip was. With a fair amount of glibness, I would say it was okay, which was meant with a chuckle at me being a card. Many of these cats are used to me saying the mountains are okay if you're into sweeping views and juxtaposed geography.

Every so often, I catch myself missing the backbeat of the tropics; the chatter of the local wildlife at night and the surf against the lava rocks. Other than alpine breezes, it can be rather silent in the mountains at night. It was a jarring lesson I had to relearn.

I do dream of the island. I dream of whales, which is kind of fantastic. Part of me would love to have the skull of one. Then I catch myself wondering where I'd hang such a thing.

The superstitious sort might see my whale dreams as portents. Lifetimes ago, I might have, but these days, I know a little better. A Pagan's spell may not work. A prayer to a deity may go unanswered. An omen can be misconstrued.

So it goes...

I started to meditate on how the trip has changed me, and immediately realized how absurd that was. Sure, how oh so romantic to say x place changed you, but I haven't got a romantic bone in my body. The reality is you're changed the moment you walk out your door, even if it's just to run down to the store for ice cream. On some level every walkabout has left me changed.

There is a term for those who are not changed by experiences; dead...

I am happy to be home, make no mistake. There are the peaks and being in my own house. It's nice to see the familiars again and not to be tripping over six other people to refill one of my water bottles. When I look out a landscape, I remember that sleep-deprived catharsis of the first night back. This is Kashmir. My place in the world. A preservationist of my acquaintance has a similar experience when she comes back from traveling, and she wanders the globe for want of something to do. I think of her as something of a mentor, so the fact she shares that experience is something I find infinitely comforting.     

04 February 2016

There and Back Again

On the morning of the last full day...


Some traveling music. One, because of the mention of tidal pools, the other because it's Faith No More...


Somehow, it was fitting we had to wait two hours to check in. The airline sends its employees home between the early and late flights. Sabina's parents dropped us off by four in the afternoon in order to get back to Pahoa before dark. Not a fan of night driving these days, I can empathize. The days on the island, no matter the time of year because of its proximity to the equator, are never much more than twelve hours. Having to wait, I utter a new mantra I learned over a ten day stretch;


I had more trouble with security this time than coming out, but it actually was my fault. See, I forgot to take my phone out of my pocket, and, the lack-of-a-filter/pathologically caustic honesty, got me to point this out, which led to an extended search. To his credit, the TSA agent offered me privacy for this, but it was my fuck up and I had nothing to hide, so I stood my ground.

 Since we had time to kill, I said to fuckery with it and got us beers. I'd rather not discuss the bar tab for two rounds of not even stout beer. It was sad that there were so few dark beers offered on the island. Another traveler in the bar postulated it was because of the warm environment, to which I called bullshit. My favorite beer on the planet is a stout out of Sri Lanka, which is lovely with spicy curries, and that place is not known for being cool in the sense of temperature.

Part of me hoped the beers would help with sleep. Or, at the very least, I wanted to be a little less high strung for the flight. Hip-hop was the backbeat, which made me contemplate a third round in favor of outright homicide.

It was obvious I was preparing for Colorado. My t-shirt, a Colorado company, read; If you're not already here, you're lost. Perhaps I was making a ham-handed attempt to be provocative. Maybe I was showing some state pride. I found curious symmetry that Colorado and Hawaii are sister states.

On the way to the airport, I zipped the legs onto my hiking pants. After security, I changed from sandals to my hiking boots. The air conditioner in the bar inspired me to put on my flannel, sleeves down. As we head further back, my vest and jacket will appear. The beanie I wore down from home will replace my cap.

The night before and earlier in the morning, Sabina waxed fatalistic about our return; back to obligations and bills and having to pay for laundry and groceries. I have been-baselessly!-accused of being cynical, but I just cannot lament like that. Within the mathematics of my thoughts is a party being tossed for the volunteers at my professional obligations on my first full day back and hopes of snowshoeing. The sun should almost be back on the house after the Long Dark.

Leaving Hawaii is not the end of the journey, just another leg of it. My journey ends when the lights go out, and I have absolutely no time to die. There is the auspice of living a life that does not require a vacation, because your life is a vacation. Some woo-woo love and light Iwanttopunchyouinthefuckingthroattowatchyourexpressionasyouhyperventilate types seem to have been recently trying to push that. I could say with a fair amount of certainty I have been living it for years, if not decades.

Yeh, I'm that kind of punk-rock in the Dali sense of keeping it surreal...



A late-night redeye to the mainland and I can't sleep. I watch The Martian, which was fairly faithful to the book. I flip through other bits of video media for background noise. Everyone else around me is asleep and it would be rude of me to click on the light to read.

This time, I set the timer on my phone. As these words find their way from the maggot's nest I call my mind to the page to dry in black India ink, there is an hour and a half left before we land. The last of the Star Wars prequels is on and I am not very excited about it-Thank you, oh so much for turning Darth Vader, my childhood hero, into a fucking whiny bitch-but it's background noise. I envy my fellow passengers their slumber. Insomnia and travel are twin aggravations.


San Fransisco;

Still no gentle people. And no one with flowers in their hair. What's this noise?

And I thought the music was bad in the Kona airport bar. In the pre-dawn small hours waiting at the gate, the music permeating the air is some fangless R&B tripe somewhat reminiscent of Sade, and the fact I even recognize the genre makes me want to scrub my scant flesh from my pronounced bones. Needless to say, I find this auditory circumstance disturbing.

The gate is right by a security checkpoint. There is the chitter-chatter of early morning travelers and the beeping and buzzing of scanners. If I close my eyes I can almost think it sounds like a casino. Every so often, a coldly automated female voice comes over unseen speakers to proselytize the paranoia of air travel in the post 9/11 world.

Nothing else is open yet. I'm down to a couple energy bars and a dubious amount of energy to hunt for anything else. Part of me craves coffee, but, after being wide awake nearly twenty-four hours, I figure that might be counterproductive. As it stands, I take a big slug of water from my bottle and try closing my eyes.




It hardly counts as a layover. Get off one plane and walk to the next door gate to board another. This is only the second smallest plane I have ever been on. Constantly, people make note of our cozy quarters. I find myself intrigued by the craft; it seems more fitting for island-hopping or the greater metroplex to a mountain STOL port than the flight we're about to undertake.

Although, given the journey started in Hawaii and will end at my mountain home, perhaps it all makes sense...

I managed to catnap for an hour. My vest and beanie are now on my person. As we landed I saw my first snow-capped mountains in ten days. It got me to smile.

Just a few hours left to go...


DIA to The House of Owls and Bats;

There was catharsis in steeping into an eighteen degree mountain night as the waxing gibbous moon illuminated the snow on the valleys high peaks. I love nearly and full moon nights in winter in my mountains for that very reason. There was the crispness of the air and the silence. It was in that moment of zen I realized I was home.

To backflash, a friend picked us up under a sky of broken clouds with rumors of storms further up. I was told I could never leave again, my place of professional obligations barely managed to function without me. Apparently, at the very least, no one else can reach the antique clock. I guess that's flattering.

The clouds thickened as we drove into the mountains, and there were flurries, but nothing significant. Part of me was sorry I was so busy talking to our friend and trying to stay awake that I didn't take note of my first sight of the Roof of the World. I figure it's okay. The realization I was back in my mountains got me to smile a grin of wicked joy and to whisper made-up mantras of thanksgiving.

The familiars were happy to see us. We unpack and our friend gave us soup so we'd not have to make any efforts for a dinner. We're home, happy, and now it's okay to be throughly exhausted. Soon we will sleep like larva morphing into butterflies.

In getting home, how could this not be my jam?

02 February 2016

Notes from Camp 1 II; Meditations

Because who doesn't have Mozart as their jam when being all contemplative like?

Mauna Loa. There are holes where I live, and, some of them belch steam in the winter. Difference being this wasn't dug by Cornish miners looking for silver and we don't tend to get lava flows up here...

What for my heresy, my initial reaction to the spirit that pervaded the island. There's a story in it...

Some local wildlife...

The vibe here is different. That much is unmistakable. Me being me, someone who dissects, looking for answers, tries to discern the difference.

I live in a paradise. A place where people come to vacation. So, I wonder if it's a simple matter of traveler versus local. Or perhaps tropical island verses mountains. I am never completely sure.

Like where I live, this place something of the poor relations of the posher resorts. Both places are a little behind the population in terms of infrastructure. Sabina's brother in law-does that make him my second brother in law or great brother in law twice removed?- sometimes says Hawaii the way I'll say mountains.

There's a little more of the woo-woo love and light new ageness than I even pretend to tolerate as a steady diet. Everywhere are signs speaking of the spirit of aloha or drive with aloha. It didn't take long for me to get a little caustic about it. Must have been the jet lag.

"The fuck?" I snarled. "The spirit of 'hello'?"

"It's a little more than that, you know," Sabina said.

"Well, it also means 'goodbye'. Goodbye, hello, hello, goodbye," I said. "John and Paul had something to say about that, and I don't mean the biblical prophets."

"So why didn't they call that song Aloha?" Sabina's nephew, who was with us at the time, inquired.

I might have been taking a huge gulp of water from my bottle when he said that. That water may have almost come up through my nose and any other openings upon my head, given my reaction. I might have deserved that, but I do not believe in the concept of deserve.


Almost immediately, I fell out of time. Attuned myself to the rising and the setting of the sun. Like legendary zen masters, sleeping when tired, eating when hungry, and getting up upon waking, instead of just laying there.

There is the notion of the story and there is the way the story goes. One would think I know that fact like the direction the sun rises and sets; the preconceived versus the actuality. Yet, I have sometimes found myself suckered by the baited trap.

In my skull, half the trip had been written out. The gypsy once told me characters do not always do what you want them to. It was one of the first lessons I found myself relearning on the island. I once more learned to let go.

I meditated upon Africa. From the tropical jungles and rugged savannas of my childhood zoological curiosities, to the Moroccan mountains and deserts of adult wonderings. I used to say the stories all began in Africa. From the standpoint of the human animal, I am fairly correct.

I meditated upon Tibet. A place made more mystical by ancient travelogues, despite the fact of its rocky loneliness. Once I threatened to move there and grow a beard. Many years later, after reading some of those travelogues and their accompanying deconstructions I found myself feeling like a poseur suckered by a passing fad.

The mountains happened at an interesting time in our lives. There we were in a budding relationship sloughing the tattered skins of previous social dynamics and searching for something of a cosmic reset, perhaps. Kashmir happens, I can imagine the gypsy saying. It makes me wonder if we'd gone to the Arizonan desert or to the island instead of to the Colorado High Country that one day in late May what might have crystallized within our skulls.

There I go; Kashmir, deconstructed. Me dissecting, cracking open a shell and poking at what lies beneath to watch it squirm and acquire my answers. I can remember Pagan acquaintances being driven nuts by that...quirk...of mine. Then again, they were more into that love and light, and I appreciate chaos and the unyielding forces of nature too much to swallow that.

Contrary to what you might think, such analysis does not demystify a concept for me. Far from it, actually. In some ways, it just deepens the mystery. Making it so much more profound.


Days into our trip, Sabina's father asked me what I thought of the island. I wondered if he knew of my misgivings when the trip was first suggested. How I was a little reluctant to go. If he had caught me fresh off the plane, he may have heard a diatribe of  displeasure sponsored by the letter fuck, but it was days later and I'd had time to decompress. I offered him a wry smile.

"I am intrigued."

It is funky-gotta have that funk!-and interesting enough to invite further exploration. By the end of the first day, I knew I'd be back. There were things I would not see. Experiences I've yet to have.

Like the mountains, I felt drawn in. Not to the point of dismantling years of living in a place and full time moving, as I did on that fateful mountain afternoon, but something that definitely piqued my curiosity. It is as though there is something on the island for us, sort of like up in the mountains. Like the mountains, it may take years to truly find the shape of it.

Sabina asked if I could even envision being a part time islander. More likely. Here and now, I am not sure I could cope without distinct seasons, and I'd miss snowshoeing. My answer was during March and April; the height of mud. That time when the snow is too crappy for snowshoeing, but too deep for hiking, the resorts are closing down for the winter and not ready for summer and people are snarly because of seasonal burnout. There would still be whales and trade winds on the island then.

Like the initial trip, I know we'd be fools to pass up the opportunity. The full demonic details just need to be worked out. This is something I do not worry about. There is time and my patience is formidable. We figured out the mountains, we'll figure out this. As has happened a bit throughout the course of my life. The last time I saw my sister, as we discussed one of the happenstances in my life she said it must have happened organically, which I took as a tarted-up way of me saying it just kinda happened.

I may not be love and light, and I might dissect things past the marrow because I do not believe in fate, but I do know that...

Somewhere I shall further explore...