Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Catch-Up




After a summer without regular internet access, what is there to report?  That I got more reading done than usual?  Watched fewer pointless videos?  Stared at my phone instead of my computer screen?  All of the above, I guess.  


Not that I was divorced entirely from internet connection.  My work required much computer time, much internet.  But home after the day's work, I was struck by how accustomed I'd grown to the sounds of netflix, youtube, even, occasionally, amazon prime.  


Even worse was checking the news--a slow, stilted scrolling through the overgrowth of 3G connection.   What's the point in a smartphone if it can't meet my attention span?  I want to know what's going on, and I want it now. 


Then, a low-tech solution: the radio.  Suddenly the house was filled with sound.  Even better, listening had me using my imagination.  Instead of watching a story, I pictured it.  Wow, how my brain was working.  I pictured it lighting up like fireworks.  I felt such a virtuous feeling.  


Then another thought:  wasn't radio once the hot new thing?  And then television?  And then color tv?  And next video games?  And now endless internet time.  

One hundred and fifty-odd years ago, rapt crowds would watch for three hours while Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated their way across the nation.  Think of that.  Three hours of intense concentration on two figures belting out arguments half a football field away.  

Could we do it now?  Of course we could.  Just take away our internet, tv, radio, and, as long as you're at it, our electric lights.  But before you do, there's a a cat video I want to be sure I catch.    

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Some days you end up taking the skis for a walk.  Woke up to clouds, hiked in rain, and found mush where I'd hope for an overnight re-freeze.  So it goes.


Was shooting for something new, not pictured here, but I like the photo, so it's going up.  


After making it to the lake I spooked a cow elk.  Tracks led me to believe she had been hanging out along the water's edge, and maybe this was why--a drowned calf, suspended as if in mid jump, in only a couple feet of water.  


The calf looked calm, and I had trouble coming up with a good story for how she got there.  Fell through the ice?  But the lake was ice free.  Jumped in and couldn't get out?  But the edge is shallow, an easy walk.  Just unlucky? 

More things in heaven and earth, Horatio...     



A few minutes later I stumbled upon a bear.  He ran off, and I hung around clacking my ski poles and hollering before continuing on my way.  Then there he was again.  Same story.  After a few minutes I started hiking once more, only to run into him a third time.  Now, instead of moving off, he began shambling my way, just a bit faster than I could trot.

I haven't heard much about black bear encounters, but I wasn't interested in becoming anybody's unusual cocktail story.  The snow was rotten, the omens seemed poor.  Better to head down and drink a beer in the sun.  Enough strange was in the air.
  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spring is the time to be creative.





Linking snow patches is an unheralded art.  Look for grass.  If no grass, look for stumps.  If no stumps, aim for the round rocks.  If only sharp rocks, grin and bear it.  Keep a file and a stick of p-tex handy.

Some insist on always removing their skis to cross dry patches.  I remember clearly the day I learned better:   

We post-holed toward a ridgeline as an early June thunderstorm rolled in.  Our camp was on the other side--dry tents, cold beer.  The air tasted metal.  At the top, we threw on our skis in a controlled panic and made tracks for the basin below, only to find our way blocked by boulders and talus.  As we hemmed and hawed at the first transition, a bolt sizzled out of a dark cloud and smote with biblical fury the ridge where we'd just been standing.  Suddenly we found we could ski those rocks after all.  

Thus can pure fear inspire sudden ability.  But I try to keep in practice, just in case.     



Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Over the edge into Finley Creek.


 I spent an intriguing afternoon poking along this ridgeline, digging through some cornices, watching the clouds blow in and out.  Thought a lot about this day.  


Then I turned around.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,


And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,


I will be brief:


Your noble son is mad.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Some advantages of early Spring:


The pleasure of leaving signatures on grubby corn.


Steeper terrain, open for business.


Squalls stalk the prairie.

Monday, March 16, 2015

On #Suffering



The view.


And the temptation of a windloaded entrance.

I've noticed over the past couple of months that "suffering" has joined the ranks of the hashtag lexicon, courtesy of the Patagonia crowd (or Arcteryx, or NorthFace, or whatever special blend of recycled coke bottles best expresses your lifestyle).  As in:  "#suffer better; #suffer uphill; #sufferfest."  This is neither good nor bad, but interesting, and because words are by training and inclination my subject, I have some thoughts.  Language evolves, its speakers change, and words stretch and move over time--a process more metamorphic than architectural.  Like layers of mud and sand, squeezed together until they form something new.    

Maybe you agree that words can be like rocks.  So far so good.  But a word is also a bit like a kitchen you walk into that smells of whatever was cooking before you arrived. You start your own meal, but still will taste a little of whatever was simmering in those pans.  In this instance, #suffering, that's a general association with martyrdom and psychic pain--two things I don't typically group with skiing, or climbing, or really anything most of us would choose to do in these, our great outdoors.    


Of course, you protest, I'm taking all of this far too seriously.  I'd be the first to agree I am--words, after all, should be as much objects of play as mountains and rivers, skis and rods.  But when my time in the mountains is constricted, my thoughts tend to run more melancholy than they would if buffered by a healthy dose of sweat and lactic acid.  Point is that I don't think any of us are really suffering out there, though we may be uncomfortable, sometimes extremely so, and sometimes verily unto death.  Do our recreations really have anything to do with the stations of the cross?  I dunno.  Maybe there are bigger fish to fry.  Throw a little native advertising into the mix, and the question becomes even trickier.  Are you running the hashtag, or is the hashtag running you?  

We all of us suffer, sometimes.  Some suffer more, some less, to each as the world sees fit to dish it out.  But skiing isn't suffering, even though your toes got really damn cold.  Language shifts as we shift, nothing wrong with that.  But like the rocks you pull on, or the snow you dig through, there's more to the words than might first meet the eye.  As I was scribbling away at this bit of nonsense, I learned that a classmate had passed away.  I did not know him well.  He suffered from medical issues, and pain, and had been struggling.  I have no right to speak of him, really.  But I wish I had taken the chance to know him better, to have extended a bit more kindness when it might have mattered.  To have suffered better, as we all should do.