It was probably a Sunday, because it usually was…September 23 of two years ago…hiking in the mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah…the Wasatch Mountains in Fall. I would say that it feels like a lifetime ago…with so many changes since then, but it was in my life…then…consistently, richly…and now it is in memories only.
it was the first in another stage of what has already been many trips down the road to and from an old place to a new one and back again and now the old is new and the new is old and desire is pulled in its different directions while the things that are passing are indeed passing and mostly without notice because they are not seen in their many familiarities, the eyes are on the road and the surrounding mountains and clouds in order to make it from one point to another and all the things in between are scant registers on a mental screen that has been focused toward what is within and not without…
the shadowed and purpled mountains didn’t register inside the lens as they did in my mind and it was only with disappointment that I stared at the screen with its muted hues and wondered at beauty and desire and hope, I had looked closer in another direction, through the side window, actually, beyond the bug-splatter on the forward windscreen and the highway railing and yellow lines and fractured glass and butts along the shoulder and it didn’t just come to me then, I had to seek it out, intentionally
There’s a sound that a pick-axe makes when it’s plunged into the earth and dragged back out again; it’s the sound of metal opening the history of our lives, slamming into our powdery souls with a thick ferocity of hefted weight and muscle and sinew and limb…a stretching of cloth and skin in the arc toward the heavens of the steel head and hardwood handle singing through the air…and the slight visceral grunt as it lands with that freighted slice and drive through soil and rock, echoes cleaving the dust and clay that is ourselves and then…
there’s a sound that a saw makes when its teeth rip through the fibers of wood and brush; it’s the sound of a serrated blade slicing into our fingers or hands, driving through the cells of meat and unto bone…fine or rusted edges of metal rending our woody flesh, tearing it neatly into pieces that we hone and fit and hammer back together into other forms that cover and shelter us against the elements and gods; we take it with our hands and break it into pieces that will warm us or feed us, sometimes with the muted, wet splaying of green wood that wouldn’t break cleanly…like joints pulled backwards against nature and form…or with the sharp echoes of cracking branches and bones that flee into time and then…
there’s a sound that a scythe makes when it passes through grass and the wheat of the field; it’s the sound of an icy razor lifted and throwing light back at the sun, of muscles on shoulders and hips swaying in a life-rhythm and a whisper through the air and a shhhhhh through the grass as cell membranes burst against the blade and green it in its passing, dust and skin and grass and stem, seed-heads swaying in the breeze of man and his motion, aloft in the sky and a shhhhhh to the ground, the echoes of sunshine and air falling on the riching earth and then…
there’s a sound that flesh makes when it tears in that moment of thrust and climb, of muscle pounding into a hallowed cave; it’s the sound of hinge-less doors opening beneath a fusing flood of life and stranded helices, recombinant forms and particles charging, of a new pulse rising in a hidden place, one cell beating and beating…becoming…that time draws forth as it rips again, that sacred fleshy vault, echoes of life and death in a moment’s strain…and then…
there’s a sound that a house makes when it no longer harbors life within; it’s the sound of a derelict wind stealing through empty window panes and hollow echoes fading into the oblivion of lost time and then, memories disappearing like vapors drawn, weak flashes in smiles and tears, images forming and fading as sunlight passes through dust motes hanging…and when the moon finds night-time corners…sliding feet on worn boards, oil from hands on banisters evaporating molecules at a time, riding the ether of ever and gone, echoes of laughter and pain, no longer anchored with heartbeats away…echoes no longer anchored with heartbeats away…and then….
***Photo used with permission by Gary D. Bolstad at Krikitarts. The photograph was taken along the side of the road somewhere in Minnesota when Gary was returning home after a vacation in the woods. I encourage you to visit Gary’s site to share in his beautiful photography that demonstrates his love and fascination with our natural world.
So, it’s 18 degrees outside this morning and there is an icy blanket of frost covering the entire back yard…not only in that blanket form, but it appears that each blade of grass is wearing the sparkling finery and reflecting the glow of the porch light and waking sun. My wife’s old dog was still breathing as I walked past her, which is likely a good thing, even though the poor creature is blind and deaf and can barely make it down the stairs and into the yard for her morning relief. There is laundry tumbling in the dryer and another cup of coffee waiting in the pot on the counter as the rest of the house is still quiet and the marvel of my Saturday morning is rich and wonderful.
We’ve been together as a family up here in our new home for a year now. We’ve had some rough go of it making adjustments, learning new things and places, slowly letting go of that past where comfort and familiarity were solid and known and as dependable as a mourning dove on a fence post at a given hour…she might have not beeen there every morning at the same time, but she was there with enough regularity that we almost came to refer to her as family, a known and constant presence that meant things were right and proper and the way they should be. And in our 18 degrees this morning, there was another mourning dove on the fence post; she sat there for a moment after I opened the door and let the old dog outside, and then fluttered with her characteristic sound over into the Russian olive tree nearby and sat there for me, signifying or telling me that yes, things are kind of normal again…mostly, maybe, close enough probably…and it’s a good morning already and so far, as the boys are waking and causing their ruckus and stir down the hall…which means that my morning quiet is fleeing fast and running far away….
I was at first stunned by the clarity of the image and then by what I noticed when I actually looked at the keys and what they meant, what they were and are in their time. This is my wife’s key-ring and keys…and most of the keys belong to locks that she no longer opens…some of them no longer exist, literally, and others might still be there, somehwere, in a city and a time from not-so-long-ago, but because of the context of her life, and mine and ours, there is no reason to possess them, for they will no longer be used for anything…other than to add mass to her key-ring…or to open doors to memories of that other life in that other place where things were familiar and made sense, before they became what they are to her now, and then. But there are new keys, too, new keys to open new doors with new possibilities…and new memories….
It’s Friday again, somehow, and thankfully…and I simply do not want to get started on my work-day, even though it technically started about half an hour and more ago. I’ve been looking at a photography blog that contains photos taken in Colorado, outdoor shots of people and nature, and it was so easy to stay there and not attend to the stack of papers on my desk that represent people and infections and stories and trying to be nice as I listen to their unconcern, panic, or whatever their names and phone numbers hold for me today. I marveled at the pictures of scenery and nature that so resemble the area of my new home and the beauty of Fall and her changing seasons.
As I was driving to work this morning, I couldn’t help notice the orange and yellow and pink and red of the leaves on the trees and sidewalks in our downtown and nearby residential areas. It reminded me again of the walk/hike I took at this time last year through Memory Park and City Creek Canyon. Upon further reflection, it dawned on me that I went there exactly one year ago next week, so even the stars and planets are similarly aligned, as the trees and everything were the same…as I looked again at the pictures I had taken and posted on Facebook.
The office is now waking and my co-workers are talking on their phones with their own patients and infections and the computer keys are tapping in their fast and slow paces and the piano music is still talking to my heart from my computer’s speakers and the cars and trucks pass silently and loudly on the street below our eastern-facing windows, as the boss is gone today and it’s Friday, again, and the pen feels so good in my hand as its tip scratches the paper and I can still smell the wood-smoke and feel the chill in my ears and nose as I remember my walk from last evening…as the echoes of my little one’s boisterousness rang in my ears and reverberated still with flashes and snapshot images of his silly and smiling eyes and clownish grin. So I think I’ll take him and his brother/nephew out to City Creek Canyon and see if they enjoy the colors of the falling leaves and the crisp morning air as much as I do and will…and maybe I’ll snap some beautiful photos to post here, too…of people and nature, and people, too.
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.