Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Refractions of light

“No matter how fast you can run, age will catch up with you.” I sat breathing hard at the top of a trail end on mountain ridge. Years ago I might have jogged up the path.

As I look across the valley it seems as if nothing has changed. I’m not an idiot. A lot has changed. I’ve only learned one thing in forty years- change happens. I participate in my own reverie of self-flagellation secure that I’m really not a masochist.

I no longer have enough fingers on my hand to count my friends who have died. I miss some of them. I wonder about a few of them; did they find happiness. I wonder if they missed me after we parted? I think about the friends I probably hurt and my memory pretends that I didn’t mean to if I did. I’m much too nice a person to intentionally hurt people. I laugh out loud at this thought. I pick up a rock and toss it into the void. I listen. With my luck I’ll hear a scream when the rock hits some other hiker and kills him or her. Right, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.

Damn, I love these mountains. I’ve searched my heart, my soul, my mind, my thoughts and after all of the intervening years I’ve never discovered why I fell in love with the mountains. For a few seconds I think once more.

Maybe it’s because they don’t seem to change but they really do. It’s because sitting up here no one bothers me. It’s because they are big and my insignificance is totally obscured by them. They represent a lost and hidden history. They offer an escape.

I’ve almost stopped breathing hard. “It’s because they might kill me.” I shout at a bird hanging on a current of air.

“Look at your self. You blob of DNA gone amuck!” My head bobs in affirmation after I shout this. I begin my own monologue of words. No one listens. I can masturbate to the sound of my own thoughts.

“Forty years! You’re still sitting on this rock slovenly attired in worn blue jeans, a t-shirt with some commercial message, a loose flannel shirt without a single button fastened. Worn leather hiking boots. You’re a bloody cartoon likeness of a long ago young Gary Snyder or Richard Brautigan. He’s dead too. THe only thing that’s changed is the slogan and the plaid of the flannel.

Liar! You went off and got that nine to five job. You hated it just to be a self-fulfilled profit. You married had children, a mortgage, watched your weight creep up and quietly attended the funerals of family and friends. You distracted yourself with a fancy of the moment. Big deal you didn’t get caught in the spiral of drugs or booze. You just got addicted to other things.

Food. Talk about getting attached to the five senses. Man put a pot of chili in front of your maw and stand back. A black hole couldn’t suck it dry any faster. Taste! You tongue moves in perpetual search of the ultimate taste. You don’t give a rip. Salty, sweet, sour, hot, spicey. Slather your tongue on anything. If someone coated roadkill with peanut butter you’d probably try it.

Touch. Man talk about an addiction. If you thought it would feel good you’d tie yourself to a tree and expose your private parts to a passing bear to sharpen his claws. Some folks got into Cocaine; you decided that gratifying your sexual cravings might bring you the same wonderment. Even today you’d roll over and play dead if someone would scratch your back just right.

Listen to the wind! You know you love it. You’ve been plying your ears with sound combinations night and day. You’ll listen to anything. Whale moans, rifles firing, train horns, horrible rock groups, chamber music, chamber pots. You mark your days with sound. The ticking of clocks is better than the quiet of digital time keepers.

Sight. You’ve split the universe with your sight. Good looking versus bad looking. And yet you let even that line of demarcation wander. You prance through an art gallery or a museum tempting your sense. Where is that piece of art that screams “STOP.” It always seems to be the image that stirs some other sense or senses. You could be crossing a busy highway and if a ravishing beauty appeared in your eye sight you freeze even if it meat death to watch her. Dad, but you’d probably do the same thing if a picture of a chili pepper or steam locomotive came into view.

Smell. Most folks don’t roll in smells. You’re as bad as a dog rolling across a dead squirrel. Come on you know the smell that centers your attention. The perfume a woman wears like a veil. You’d follow that to hell. Close on the heels would be the smell of a fresh tomato and basil sauce or a cinnamon bun dressed in vanilla icing. Damn, your tongue is dancing in your mouth as you think this.”

A woodpecker hammers at a hollow tree trunk. What if the woodpeckers know Morse Code? Maybe its encrypted. Listen. Bet you wish you’d done a better job learning in the Boy Scouts. Tap tap tap. Dot dot dot. Is that a dash?

Decode the message. “One of those idiot humans sitting on a rock up here. STOP. Will notify when he gets off his ass. STOP.”

Down far away, I hear a freight train beginning its slow grind through the mountains. I know the path. Oh, I know the passage of the rails. Mill Creek, Dendron, Andrews’ Geyser, Anne’s Treasure, Graphite, Coleman, Jarrett Tunnel, Swannanoa Tunnel, Ridgecrest, Black Mountain. It’s just history. THe history of steel rails, headed for the Murphy Branch.

Damn! I’m hungry! What’s for lunch. Maybe a beer, a sub, and some flailing guitar music before I lash myself in for the long ride back to where I am right now.