Archive for March, 2011

I don’t know what it’s called…

…but there’s definitely a “something” that I feel when leaving the forest and hills and trails on my weekend outings.  I would offer that it’s almost a tangible sadness, but that’s not precise enough, I don’t think.  There is a…I don’t know, maybe a separation occurring somewhere in my soul, my core, a literal leaving of something that speaks deeper than words, that moves, maybe, in a way that simply cannot be defined.  For the hours that I’m out there, the notion is essentially absent, I’m not worrying about leaving, not preoccupied with the loss that is around the eventual next ridge or hillside, I’m not thinking about it at all…but when that last draw has been passed or the last canyon crossed, or when I’ve come to the place in those long upward trails where my body is not responding to my mind’s bidding and jamming up the slopes with as much fervor as it did those hours ago and I decide that it’s time to rest for a bit and then turn around and head back, within that instant, or in one of the several that shortly follow that one, the sensation of a coming loss becomes real and my heart and mind know that all of the things I have so loved for the last however many hours will be shoved away for another week or so until I am out there again.  And no, it’s not that I “have” to go home…I am not dreading my return to family life and work and responsibilities and whatever else.  That’s not it at all.  I love and enjoy my family and my life and home and work and all of that…I’m not dreading what I am returning to, I’m immediately missing what I am in the act of leaving.  Yes, I am attached to those in my life whom I love…but I’m strangely attached, too, to whatever it is in those forests and hills, as well…those crazy-tall mountains that fill the eastern horizon with their canyons and draws and the rugged rocks and crags that adorn the mountain-sides, all the varieties of trees and bushes and groundcovers, the moss on the rocks and scrub oak, even the fallen and decaying leaves with their smell of sweet rot and life, mingling with the perfumes of new buds and leaves and spring flowers that brave the cold and wind on their bare hillside homes.  I don’t know what it is, really, but it’s something…it’s something that I’m attached to and I feel a genuine separation and loss when it’s time to leave.  Maybe it’s like leaving the peace and quiet of a beautiful sanctuary or temple and returning to a loud and profane world of city and cars and signs and electrical poles and streets and sidewalks and airplanes….  Whatever it is that draws me out there, I start to miss it before I’m gone.


The Pedestrian Bridge

I wandered out of my neighborhood proper this evening for my regular walk, out of the familiar realm and into another, past the new-ish houses that line and dot the area and into the older parts, the more ancient, if that is not too exaggerated of a word for the homes and hearths that rest and belong in this other area.  I walked past houses with fireplaces lit and burning and the myriad smells of different woods burned and smoking and was cast back into my childhood with the smoky meat and sausages of German towns and cobbled streets and gutters, wood-burning stoves lit and burning and casting their familiar aromas into those long-ago icy nights, snowflakes falling past slated roofs and through the beams of yellowed street lights.  I was there in moments and out again as I beheld the gorgeous and modern houses that lined other streets, an elementary school with the shining SUVs and minivans leaving the parking lot with raised and lifted and monstrously-tired trucks as they left the evening conferences or whatever, pulled out of the parking lot and made their way and ways to their various houses…anyway, down those dimly lit roads that went to those other neighborhoods, not mine, but away. 

I walked those miles and then, and came to the cemented ribbons of commerce and travel, that freeway beltway that circles the town and valley.  On this side is the neighborhood, on the other are the stores and restaurants filled with people spending their time and money doing whatever it is they’re doing, shopping and eating and being and not wondering at what I was doing out there on the middle of the pedestrian-bridge those twenty-some and thirty feet above the freeway looking down at the passing cars and trucks and minivans, some of which might have just left the evening’s activities at a local elementary school, some of which might be passing homeward, so late, from their working days, or heading back, or to work as I stood there and looked at them passing so.  My gloved hands slid their fingers through the chain link arched fence that covered the bridge and hung loosely there as those semi trucks and full and midsized pickup trucks and whatnot sped along. 

I wondered at peace and how it could be found there, wondered if it was there, not just there to be found, but could it be there, suspended so high above those cemented passageways, four and six lanes heading their separate ways, four and six lanes times east and west, so eight and twelve lanes in their coming and going.  Would it be possible to sit there above the traffic, suspended there above those passing vehicles and people, and have the hum of tires and motors become a relaxing and whitened noise that might calm a troubled soul?  Standing there in that odd place, that suspended place that caused my steady soul to wonder at the fastness of the cement pillars and pilings, the metal rods that must be deep inside those cemented somethings, and the architectural skills and engineering genius that must have been utilized to allow for sway and movement and the natural jostling of wind and the shifting of potential liquefaction of the substrate and the contracting and expanding of freezing and warming concrete in their seasons and other things…it did wonder, my steady soul. 

It wondered, too, at the darkness that must reside, I would say live, but that would seem to involve an effort to do so, to live, that is, but to reside could be equated to existing and that, it would seem, might not take too much effort…but I wondered, anyway, at the darkness that must reside in the hearts of other people, in their souls maybe, such seemingly impenetrable blackness that would cause them to join me on this midair walkway and look for ways to violate and pass-through the chain-link and then hurl themselves onto those concrete ribbons and under all of those passing vehicles that I mentioned and didn’t, just above in those earlier lines. 

My mind wandered back, too, to an earlier life and an earlier occupation that was occupied, was occupied, indeed, so to speak, with concerns, with others’ concerns and our own concerns, mine and my co-workers, with those troubled souls and darkened hearts that found themselves up on those suspended places over the rushing traffic.  I wondered how they could have come to that place in their lives, and so near their deaths, that they sought the heights so they could soar up and out from their own inner depths and fly and fall into a light that meant release from so many torments.  I wondered what happened to that last loved one or friend, the last one of either, whose patience ran out, whose loving words finally failed that other one on the pedestrian-bridge.  Were they scorned by lover or friend, by their oldest child or youngest child or their mate of one or two years, of two or three decades, or was it failing health or lost dreams or used-to-be’s?  What did they lose…to find themselves there?  It could be anything, I suppose…or everything, too.  Their equilibrium, purpose, drive, meaning, orientation, world-view, or whatever…they might suddenly be in a place where nothing makes sense, where things aren’t where they used to be, where even the light is different than it’s supposed to be in their world, or in the place in their world that they used to occupy, maybe.   Maybe if their shoes were on my feet, maybe, I might understand more than I do or can, maybe I would understand what it’s like to be them, if I could understand such a thing, but I don’t know.  I didn’t walk in their steps, didn’t share their heartbeats, didn’t lay my head on a pillow next to theirs at night, maybe, or didn’t lose what they lost, or suffer the abuses from monsters’ hands like they did, or might have…I didn’t feel those things, maybe I didn’t, so I can only try to understand, as I might. 

So, I wondered about all of that and some, and more, as I stood there and listened to those tires and motors speed away from beyond and beneath me as I looked eastward in the darkened night and beheld the lighted forms of the mountains sitting there and understood and knew that they offered perspective to some people’s lives, but not others, that some problems are bigger even than mountains, or seem to be, and therefore are, and that comfort and peace might only come to some at the end of a brief flight from a pedestrian-bridge.  Not my personal choice, mind you, and nothing that I condone…but I do understand…in as much as I am able.


Temple Quarry Saturday

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City was built from blocks of white granite that were “mined” from a “quarry” near the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of the city.  When I imagined what a quarry might be, I pictured a huge hole in the ground, or at least a huge scar on the rocky side of a mountain.  The blocks for the temple were actually carved out of boulders that fell from the mountainside in the canyon.  I’m not advertising for the Mormons or the beautiful architectural feat of their showcase temple, I am, however, sharing the natural beauty of the place where this people gently obtained what they needed to build it.

 The site of the Temple Quarry Nature Trail is also the lower trailhead for the Little Cottonwood Canyon Trail.

You can see a boulder in the very bottom and center of the picture that came from the mountain above.

It’s probably easier to see the size of the boulders that were used from this picture than the last one.

Frozen waterfall from the snowmelt on the side of the mountain.  There’s not normally a stream there, so I imagine it’s just from the melting snow on a few warmer days.

This is the snowy canyon at the base of the mountains.  The creekbed/streambed is in there somewhere…not running now, but frozen and diverted further up the canyon.

It’s crazy what the fog does when it freezes on the branches and poles…beautiful crazy….

Took this at the end of the hike…heading toward early afternoon and the winter sun was just creeping over this part of the Wasatch range…beautiful.

Go Sun Devils!


Don’t use that name

Years ago I found stories in the everyday lives of the people who populated mine, those from my workplace, especially, and sometimes, and still, with my family.  In those years of the past, the situations and lives of my clients easily became the foundation or the substance of the stories and recollections that I put into stories and musings.  Yes, I changed the names, always, but the things and events that I shared were straight from their lives.  I would change some things, as is my license when I’m the writer; I would add to or delete from what they had told me, as sometimes the truth was too raw…other times I made the truth a touch stronger so that it would bite harder when it was read, so that it would cause us to think more, you and me both, about our own lives and the importance of the people we love and the things we take so for granted in our own little orbits around the sun. 

I have recently returned to the first “former occupation” that lived so vividly in my earlier writings.  When they say that you can never go home again, this seems to be true in this instance as well.  Things are different than they used to be.  The grass isn’t greener, by far, over here, but it is still good and the rewards are similar to what they were in the past.  Some notable differences, though, come in the level to which I am able to participate in the lives of my clients and the other categories of people who used to fill my work life as I did what I did in the health department context.  Most of my experiences and involvement with people are now over the phone, similar to when I worked with 9-1-1.  I participated in the callers’ lives over the phone, I was witness to their tragedies as they played-out through the headset, I typed the facts as I obtained them, or as they were hurled at me through the technology of a cell phone or land-line that was so utilized to request our certain brand of help.  And today, or now, again, with this health department, it’s back on the phone.  Most of the interviews with my clients/patients are conducted on the phone.  I do, occasionally, as much as I’m able, bring people to the clinic to speak with them face to face, the contacts anyway, if I can’t do so with the original patients, so that I can deal with and participate in the human exchange again.  Yes, I enjoy it being a limited exchange, 20 to 30 minutes of their lives, but face to face, looking into their eyes, watching them try to find the right words to express their concern, or watching them react to the pointed and intimate questions that I must ask them in order to do my job…it’s so much more preferable than doing it over the phone.  I can observe and then respond to the nuances of their half of the conversation, those non-verbal parts that can betray the spoken parts.

And then there are some occasions, very limited ones, thus far, in which I am actually out on and in the street again, traveling, driving the new old streets in this new town and home of mine, seeing people and places for the first time that my daily routines and even weekend wanderings don’t usually allow me to see.  On those few times that I was able to get out there again, I felt an odd familiarity and excitement, almost, at being on strange doorsteps and knocking on those strangers’ doors again, watching and wondering at their reactions, or wondering if they’re going to answer the door in the middle of a late afternoon snowstorm for whoever might be knocking or ringing the bell after I’ve already seen them walk past the window or move the curtain after I parked in front of their house.  I haven’t been out and walking up and down dusty alleyways or sitting at a picnic table in the park, watching a dominos game while asking about whoever knows whomever yet, but that day may be here again, someday…maybe…maybe not.

At any rate, I’m back inside the stories again, on a vastly different plane, but still there, listening sometimes to the confusion, marveling with them as the light comes on or as the blinds are pulled-up on what they had been told, and hearing that “Aha!” moment come through over the phone or in person as they’re learning the truth about how they got that particular infection, etc.  Back inside the stories…not on the 9-1-1 phones again, not on the radio where the cop-talk became a way of life, but back inside the stories where intimacy got defiled, or germy, anyway, and sometimes watching the eyes as realization comes, or as truth is rearranged or lost in the speaking of a few words.

Another thing that’s different and a concern of mine/ours, in this recent time, this current working with the health department that I do, is that of confidentiality.  Yes, the concern was there in the past, those 10 and 20 years ago in which I did this same work, but it seems that the emphasis then was upon medical information and names, not necessarily the stories and the content of those lives.  At least that’s how I remember it anyway.  And today, this day and yesterday and the literal tomorrows of my work here, all of that information is confidential, somehow, especially in print.  Their step into the clinic and the color of their car and the big tree under which it was parked in their neighborhood home and the 20 weeks at which they lost their baby and the husband or wife or boyfriend who cheated on the patient and the other, and whatever, those things aren’t mine to share…as much as I’d like to in some of their various forms, their disguised forms, their interesting stories and then, they’re not mine, somehow.  I can almost hear a voice inside myself saying “Don’t use that name.  Don’t say it aloud.  Don’t spell it while you’re doodling and sitting on hold.  Don’t whisper it as you’re typing your notes.  Don’t think it as you’re driving home, and don’t say it in the echoes of your imagination, not even in a conversation within your hidden self.  It belongs to someone else in a different place, in a different life, and it ceases to exist in yours once you’re done doing what you do with it.  If you remember it later, you had better forget it just as quickly.  If your pen starts to write it down, you’d better put it away.  When you dream at night or in the middle of the day, that beautiful name had better stay gone from your thoughts and reflections.  In all of your remembering, remember that it’s not yours.  When your heart cries with your mind in knowing why you know it, when that ache transcends reason and thought, your bones had better remember what will happen if you don’t forget it.  It’s not your name, so leave it alone.  Years might pass and places change and the context of your rotating around the sun might be different or the same…and you might start reflecting on life and your trod steps and the people you have known.  You might remember the faces of those who peopled your earlier lives in those earlier places and those other worlds, but when you start to recall their names and the places and contexts in which you knew them, you’d better remember to forget some of them.  If your self fails and your resolve dwindles or your heart still aches too much to ignore, you’d better change the frame, the context, the situation, the details, the heartbeats, the coursing blood, and the number of stairs that led to the place where you knew it.  You’d best make it so different that nothing is the same, not even the smell or the taste of the memory that resides in your cells.  Don’t use that name…it isn’t yours.” 

Anyway, if I tell stories here, they aren’t true…but they’re not made-up either.