Lost in Translation: Shouting into the Wind…

Grateful Blog Day 103: Yesterday I stopped off at a rest area to stretch my legs and write this blog. I had it all written—a picture, the works. But a storm kicked up and somewhere in the wind of the Columbia River gorge it disappeared into cyberspace and just as likely into thin air. I can’t recreate it so there’s no point in trying. The thing is when I realized it happened I was already back in the car, driving again, and just a few hours from home. I’d been out for several days and I was Grateful to be so close to home. There are many days that I feel that the ‘Grateful Blog’ is really special—and I so value that folk’s take time out of their busy days to read it. And some days I feel like I’m just another guy trying to shout above the interstate traffic into the spring Columbia River wind and who really just wants to drive that last 200 miles to get back home to his wife. It was a long and sometime’s crazy trip, and I’m Grateful to make it home again, safe and sound.

Edward Abbey’s desert: ‘You only get so many chances…’

Grateful Blog: Day 94: 94 Days of the ‘Grateful Blog’…my God…only 272 days to go. ‘94’ makes me think of 1994. I was 26 and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had a girlfriend who I’d just driven over 10,000 miles with from Seattle to Lower Economy Nova Scotia and back (via Yosemite, Eldorado, Oklahoma and the Great Smokey Mountains no less) in a Toyota Corolla. By the time we got back its safe to say we were borderline no longer able to stand one another. Later we found out that friends had been taking odds on how long we’d ‘last’ before killing each other. There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

I had another friend who’d just read and then sent me Edward Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire’ and I’d read it cover to cover and wound up fascinated with the Utah desert. Somehow I procured a pamphlet on opportunities to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and they listed a position in Canyonlands National Park. It paid $198 per MONTH, but I’d get paid me to go check out what I’d just read in Abbey’s book. I was hooked. Sign me up! And they did…

I packed up everything I owned, threw what I couldn’t pack away, and drove 18 hours to get there. It was February and the interstates of Oregon, Idaho and Utah were snowy, treacherous and full of semis. But I got there to the SE Utah desert on the high Colorado Plateau just as spring hit. There were still some cold days but there were lots of sunny days in the 70’s. And it was gorgeous. It was everything Edward Abbey said it was and more. I worked in this place called the ‘Maze’ and ‘Horseshoe Canyon’ for about 2 years. To begin to describe either would take a book and even then you’d fall short for lack of words or lack of pages. At some point words fail to describe something THAT beautiful and just being quiet and listening becomes more important.

I learned that from the desert and a 100 more things it taught me. I’m Grateful for all of them, even the ones like heatstroke that damn near tried to kill me a few times. ‘Watch your step.’ ‘You only get so many chances.’ I learned those too. But everything has 2 sides to the coin. And while you do ‘only get so many chances’ you have to remember to take more than few—because you ‘only get so many…’

I’m Grateful I took that chance in 1994. When it gets to be ‘Suicide Weather’ in winter here in the Pacific Northwest there’s always a day in February when I realize that this is just about the time I’d be getting the call from the Park Service to go back to the desert. I know it’s been almost 20 years but I still feel that pull of the desert in springtime, I still need to go explore the canyons, see the endless, vast blue sky by day with its high rolling clouds and see ALL the stars at night. I need to soak in a hot spring for 4 hours and then come back later and do it again. The desert is all part of the process of losing yourself in something bigger to find yourself again. It taught me that too and I’m so Grateful I was listening because ‘You only get so many chances…’

Hope Springs Eternal…

Grateful Blog: Day 80: Today is the First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring!…

And yet for some damn reason its freezing cold and raining sideways? Well, I’m Grateful anyways. Because Gratitude, like Hope, Springs Eternal…

The Last of Winter’s fires…

Grateful Blog: Day 79: It’s the last night of Winter but you wouldn’t know it. It’s been cold lately and even snowed yesterday. It didn’t last but still, it’s pretty weird for around here. Just three months ago I spent the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, sleeping on 19 acres I’m borrowing from God for a while up the Columbia River George in a place called ‘Klickitat’. TheYakimatribe used to ‘own’ it, not all that long ago. Me I just go up there, throw down my sleeping bag on the ground and watch the stars come out. When it gets cold I make a big fire, drink a little whiskey and maybe play a few songs that feel right under the bright, clear Milky Way.

But that was 3 months ago and even though this Winter felt short and maybe just a little bit sweet, it’s been hanging on of late; Throwing us a curve. Tonight when I came home I took out the trash and noticed the temperature, like the level of oil in the tank for the furnace, had dropped precipitously again. Winter just doesn’t apparently know it’s supposed to politely exit stage left, or at least take one last bow and be gone.

In any case I put the trash can on the curb and walking back up the driveway remembered that I might still have a little wood left. I get a fair amount of it up in Klickitat:Oregonwhite oak mostly, some maple and some ponderosa pine. The dry climate up there is so different from the moisture we get here but that oak burns as long as the pine burns fast. Sometimes in the mornings when we’ve been ready to leave for work, we’ve noticed that last night’s oak log is still in the fireplace, still smoldering. It makes you wonder ‘should I really leave the house?’ or just re-stoke the fire and call in ‘well’.

Tonight when I checked the garage I found there were just a few buckets’ left. There was enough for a fire tonight. That oak that had been storing summer’s heat in its tight rings, would finally release some of that heat, at just the right time. Enough to keep away the chill of the last night of Winter, and enough to remind us that Summer, with all it’s beautiful, sublime and sensual heat, is coming once again. You have no idea how Grateful I am for that…

Spring and the Red-Winged Blackbird…

Grateful Blog: Day 54: There are little signs of Spring all around. The snowdrops blooming, the air warming, and a this sense that the darkness of Winter is lifting. It’s still gray, gray, gray and rainy, rainy, rainy but…but it SEEMS brighter somehow.

For me though there are several distinct signs of Spring that I look forward to. One is the first bloom on a Camellia bush. It should be any day now. Another is what I heard the morning: The song of a Red-Winged Blackbird. Like all music, I can’t explain why it’s my favorite. It just is. There’s something in its throaty delivery, that ‘conk-la-ree!’ that ‘one second song starts with an abrupt note that turns into a musical trill.’ It reminds at once of hollowed out snags and brushy woodland margins as well as desert marshes. And it gets to me, the way Bob Dylan’s music get to me. Bob’s always been a bit of blackbird himself, come to think of it.

And it reminds of Spring. Spring when I was younger, and would get the call from the National Park Service to come back for another season. Spring when I would pack the car and drive across the West to get to the Utah desert and pull over to stop a minute, take in some amazing view, and inevitably hear the Red-Winged Blackbird singing those rolling, cackling notes, punctuating the suddenly warm air with promise of days ahead. Yeah. Spring and the Red-Winged Blackbird. The 2 go hand in hand, wing to wing, and that’s left to do is pack the car and go…